Enigmatic Bodies – Anna May Wong

img097Limehouse Blues, 1934

Anna May Wong:

Anna May Wong was the first Chinese American actress to receive international fame. She is known for her countless movies, such as Shanghai Express and The Toll of the Sea. Wong is the focal point of this photo due to her fame as well as success. She is dressed beautifully and simply. The way she is standing in the photo causes the observer to wonder what she is doing and this also makes her more mysterious.

Oriental woman as the focal point of the gaze!

Enigmatic Bodies:

The term “enigmatic bodies” comes from the idea of being mysterious and difficult to understand. Within the nine photos we were assigned, each expressed this idea in some way. However, I believe this photo of Anna May Wong, from the film Limehouse Blues, captures the idea best.

She is the focal point of everyones gaze. The world around her is solely focused on her. Due to this, it draws the observers eyes to her immediately as well. Something noteworthy about this photo is the fact that majority of the people in this restaurant are westerners. It makes Anna May seem like the object of their desires through their longing gazes. Also through these gazes it makes Wong appear much more mysterious. It makes the observer want to understand her and learn who this beautiful woman is right before their eyes.

introduce the thesis at the beginning of the post and support the claim with elements of denotations: the setting, the costume, the lighting effects, and the audience …. 

Having the photo lack any type of color makes it mysterious as well. We are unable to know what the scene of this restaurant really looks like. However, I think that this pairs well with the enigmatic bodies due to its mysteriousness. The black and white is very simple, but leaves a greater impression on the viewer.


The dragon was a common theme found in all our photos. Traditionally, the dragon represents power, strength and heroism among many others and has always been a symbol associated with China. Within all the photos given to my group, we noticed that a dragon appeared in each of them. Whether it was sewn into a garment or displayed in another way, the dragon is in every photo. In this photo, dragons are portrayed along the walls which emphasizes their importance. The dress Wong is wearing has very simple elements to it, but is done so intricately, making it very elegant. It also covers her completely, but still can be considering a revealing dress. Because it is tight and provocative it sexualizes Wong in some ways. The way this photo was taken, does not give us full view of the dress, but almost sends an elusion that Wong is the head of the dragon. The black background of the dress almost camouflages her and the gold is all we see. Having Wong physically become a “dragon lady” expresses her power and strength.

introduce the idea of “dragon lady” at the beginning of the paragraph and then explain why Wong is configured as a dragon lady?

This photo, to me, is still hard to completely understand. I think that was intended to be that way. I think this also goes along with enigmatic bodies as being mysterious and alluring. This photo is very attractive and interesting, but it is still hard to completely understand it.

touched the notion of enigmatic bodies???

Enigmatic Bodies- Anna May Wong and the dragon

Annex - Wong, Anna May (Daughter of the Dragon)_02

The Daughter of the Dragon, 1931






Photograph of Anna May Wong, Otto Dyar 1932





The exhibit “China through the looking Glass” allows viewers to to visualize and understand Chinese fashion imagination through film and art. The “Enigmatic Body” is a particularly fascinating concept that leads us to many questions about Chinese symbolism, culture, and fashion. In the image, The Daughter of the Dragon (1931), Anna May Wong sits in the shadow of a Chinese dragon. In the image on the right, by Otto Dyar, Wong hides behind the body of the dragon. In both images, we see Wong pictured with the Chinese dragon in a black and white or discolored representation.

The decision to insert Anna May Wong as the focal point of each photo:

to centralize or to frame?

Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American movie star and first Asian American actress to gain international recognition. The artists of both images choose to insert a very beautiful, well known, talented film start to be the focal point in their image. This immediately causes the audience to question this decision and ask why they made this choice. As discussed in class, the dragon represents power and strength and the insertion of this beautiful talented woman in addition to the dragon, connotes her power and strength as a “dragon lady.”

In an image earlier in the exhibit, we see Wong pictured on a stage with a Western audience who’s eyes are fixed on her body. Hollywood portrays Asian women as “dragon ladies” through the image of Wong in her performance. The images above present this portrayal once again through the decision to insert a highly valued, beautiful Asian film star as the focal point of an image that includes the dragon.

make an effort to support the claim of “enigmatic bodies”

The dragon:

The dragon has been a symbol throughout Chinese history that holds significant meaning in Chinese culture. It represents power, excellence, strength, and heroism. We have seen the dragon appear in certain aspects of Chinese life, however, through the study of Enigmatic Bodies in particular, we are able to understand its significance in Chinese culture as it is paired with an attractive and famous Asian female. The dragon was included in each piece featured in the exhibit in order to make a statement of power and strength.

how does the symbol of dragon signify the concept of “enigmatic bodies?”

The artists’ choice of color:

The Enigmatic Bodies images foster an alluring and intriguing experience for the viewer. Mystery, concealment, and attraction are present in each of the images above. The image named “The Daughter and the Dragon,” is in black and white. The image by Dyar is also a colorless image. I think this choice and technique is very effective in the representation of the themes of mystery, concealment, and attraction because it adds a significant amount of secrecy to the images. In the image on the right, it looks as if Wong is peering out from behind the dragon skin. The image holds a lot of secrecy and concealment, yet also highlights her power and strength as a “dragon lady.” In the image on the left, Wong sits in front of the dragon’s shadow. We are able to see more of her body, however, we are still left with mysteriousness. It is interesting to wonder how these images would be different if they were in color. How would color change them and change their connotations, symbolisms, and meaning?

good organization. explain persuasively how the two images conceptualize “enigmatic bodies.”


Evolving meaning of the Red Guard Uniform


China Through The Looking Glass, The Red Detachment of Women, 1971.

Communist China is marked by a time under the reign of Chairman Mao from the 1950’s through the 70’s until Mao’s death in 1976. Mao promoted ideas of uniformity and collectivity in society as a way to unite the people of China across different social classes and professions. It was a highly militaristic time as Mao encouraged the rebellion against capitalism and a lot of violence entailed. This time period really influenced the style and fashion in every day life as shown in the image I chose. This image leads me to make the claim that communist fashion has evolved from its original militaristic purpose and meaning to a whole new representation and expression of creativity during the late Mao and post Mao era

clarify “a whole new representation and expression of creativity in post-mao China” what are the new representation and expression?

The clothing choice:

The women in this image are wearing a form of the communist red guard uniform. We can see the classic jacket, hat and red arm band. This image was taken in 1971, which is in the final few years of the communist time period under Mao when fashion styles were beginning to change. The choice to wear the red guard uniform clearly makes this picture a representation of the communist time.

explain why the attire choice articulates representation of the communist time?

The uniformity:

Every women in this image is wearing the exact same thing. The repetition of their outfits really emphasizes the importance of the uniform. This uniformity displays the ideals Mao encouraged of being one collective unit working together. Not only are the women all wearing the same thing, but they are all in the exact same pose. The women are literally working as one unit, moving the same way. They represent an army in a time period so reliant on military forces.

define the concept of “uniformity”: what is wrong with that?

The juxtaposition of femininity and masculinity:

Another thing I noticed, is the juxtaposition of the pose the women are in and the weapons they are holding. While, this position puts the women on their tip toes in a very delicate pose, the guns they are holding paint them in a more masculine, rough and aggressive light. This shows the complexity of women at this time, are they delicate beautiful figures or should they be empowered and strong like men?

yes, what does the concept of masculinity mean?

Female objectification:

Along the lines of the female representation, I find this image to be objectifying women through the clothing they wear. They are wearing a form of the original red guard military suit, but it has been adapted for their female body. They are wearing short shorts and high socks to elongate and emphasize their legs. It sexualizes these women unnecessarily and takes away from any empowerment they may hold. I find this sexualization of the female body in such a symbolic uniform a way to

masculinization as well as sexualization: possible indications?

nice structure and work on connotation

Skin Whitener, sexualized body, and local demands


Chinese cosmetics have become increasingly prevalent in Chinese culture resulting in a highly competitive market. In her article, “In China’s Cosmetics Market Beauty is Pocket Deep,” Jill Petzinger explains that Western brands have struggled to dominate the market while local brands have succeeded in gaining tremendous popularity. Therefore, brands must cater to the fickle local tastes in the region in order to flourish. While adhering to local consumers, the advertisement above exposes a product that is exceedingly popular among Chinese females and highlights a prominent aspect of Chinese beauty: skin whitener. [focal point]

Local Brand: Upon viewing this image, we can immediately see the Chinese symbols written both on the advertisement and the whitening product itself. Pitzinger explains that products by L’Oreal, for example, reject animal testing procedures which is has had an impact on their struggle for business. Chinese consumers pay more attention to the brand, the product and its price, rather than animal testing ideals. Local brands such as Chinese Herborist, for example, uses traditional Chinese ingredients in its products which intentionally target Chinese consumers. Consumers can not only receive the benefits from the products, but can experience satisfaction of investing in a product that has cultural traditional meaning and value. Cindy Yang, Senior Director or Nielsen China says, “local brands are more flexible and faster in execution…they have leveraged traditional Asian ingredients well and made their products very convincing,” in comparison to Western brands. In addition, Eastern brands are more specialized in skin whitening, Pitzinger explains.

stay with the focal claim, skin whitener

Skin Whitener: There is significant attention and emphasis placed on skin health and color among Chinese women. The female portrayed in this advertisement has very light skin, not only on her face, but on her entire body. We can see her skin glistening and certain areas such as her arm are shined substantially to create a more dramatic effect. In contrast with Western customs and skincare preferences, Chinese women explore ways to increase skin whiteness. As discussed in class, this preference began years ago when Chinese people with darker skin were assumed peasants because darker tones were associated with work under the sun. Therefore, skin whiteness was associated with non-workers and an indicator of high class and elite status. Pitzinger writes about Chinese consumers: “they look for the best products to lighten the skin and provide luminosity.”

address further the question of why whitening the skin

Sexualization of the female body: The female in this image is portrayed in a very sexualized manner. She is wearing a white, loose, and revealing tank top that exposes much of her body. She attracts consumers by flashing her white, smooth, and illuminated skin. The advertiser made a concerted effort to create a cool, clean, and shiny image to cater to consumers’ ideals using blue and white colors. The focus is on the female’s skin and in order to achieve this, the advertiser cut off some of the female’s head, hiding much of her hair so as not to interfere and become a distraction. The sexualized female is appealing to other female consumers because her image adheres to the notion that they, too, could look like her by using the product.

female sexuality in terms of white skin? 

Projecting a False Reality in Wedding Portraits

Following the abandoning of Mao’s policies and the embracing of a consumer economy, professional wedding portraiture has become popular practice for Chinese couples. However, their portraits differ from those in the West because they are not candid shots taking during one’s wedding. Rather, they are elaborate photos taken in a studio on a day other than the wedding and in some cases long after the marriage has taken place. The goal of these portraits, as the following images will demonstrate, is not to capture romance between the couple. Instead, it is project a series of potentially false images about the couple: affluent, cosmopolitan, educated, western, or even that they are in love.

Wedding Portrait

The image above features a woman in a wedding dress seated beside a man in a suit, presumably her husband, in an exotic red sports car set in a city. Above them is the phrase “Don’t forget to be continue” below “Creation&Journey.” Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that neither the bride nor the groom’s clothing fits them properly. The shoulder pads of his jacket extend far beyond his shoulders and terminate well above his arm, as evidenced by the bunching up of the material when it should lay naturally. Furthermore, how the jacket hangs on his frame indicates that it is meant for a man much larger than him. Likewise, her gown seems to be intended for a woman much larger than herself. The sleeves of the gown bunch up when they should lay flat when her arms are by her sides and the shoulder straps are elevated off her shoulders. An English speaker should also not that the phrase “don’t forget to be continue” does not make sense.

What these small details illuminate is that this is an intentionally fabricated image designed to convey a false level of affluence. A couple that can afford an exotic Italian sports car like the one in which they are depicted can also afford clothing that fits properly, especially for their wedding celebration. However, wedding portrait studios typically provide clothing for the portraits. The ill-fitting clothing coupled with the incoherent sentence above them suggests that they went to a cheap wedding studio. A sophisticated consumer spending lots of money on these portraits might have enough exposure to English to realize that sentence did not make sense. If not the couple depicted, then the other sophisticated clientele of the upscale portrait studio would have pointed it out to the photographer so that this mistake would not appear. This illustrates that a desire to project affluence transcends class and includes those for whom such levels of wealth are little more than a dream.

Elegant Wedding Photo

nice transition

Unlike the photo above, this is a photo of a wedding portrait’s being set up. We can see in the background the dirty concrete walls of the studio, as well as the studio lights behind the couple and beside them. Behind them is a western painting depicting a Christian scene. The couple is wearing Western clothing as well: a flowing black evening gown and an elegant suit coordinated to match her dress. They are seated on a French style couch and are flanked by European style vases, the furthest of which depicts the Greek gorgon. Above them is a chandelier.

As with the previous photo, this one shows the process by which an artificial sense of opulence is created. The bare concrete wall on the left side of the photo is dirty and covered with mold, hardly indicators of opulence, and it clashes quite vividly with the colorful scene around them. Both the floor and shape of the wall suggest that this is a contained “reality” whose truths do not extend more than a few feet. However, this couple might be more affluent than the previous couple as the studio’s attention to detail is far more acute than the previous studio. Not only does her dress perfectly match his suit, but they are also complemented by the floor itself and are balanced elegantly by the shadows cast by the studios lights; neither of their costumes glaringly clash with the scene around them as the man’s suit did above. Furthermore, both of their costumes appear to fit them properly, which also suggests that they are more affluent than the other pair. The incorporation of Western paintings and ancient Greek symbology in the form of the gorgon on the vase suggests that the couple sees Western history as a commodity that can be used to express wealth rather than just Western cars or clothing.

In conclusion, both of these photos illustrate a cross class desire to project false realities in Chinese wedding portraits. When juxtaposing the first and second image, attention to detail by the photographer in terms of how the clothing fits the subjects demonstrates that these photos appeal to poor and rich consumers alike. The second photograph illustrates the extent to which these photos are fabricated: a gorgeous, European-style background in a filthy, mold covered photo studio. Both photos through their use of European decor and the first’s use of English demonstrate a desire to commodify Western culture to project a false cosmopolitan nature.

introduce “Western decor and Chinese application in wedding portraits” as thesis statement at the beginning. In so doing, your analysis will be driven by potential explanation of why so.

Consumption of Color in China

Louisa Schein in The Consumption of Color and the Politics of White Skin in Post-Mao China, argues that the representation of white women overwhelms the contemporary Chinese world. She continues this argument by observing the denotations and connotations of the white woman’s body and facial features and attributes. Stein gives us 2 symbolic meanings of the western woman. The first being the physical meaning, the second being the ideological meaning. The physical meaning is the “emblem of radicalized difference which signifies not the blondness (or paleness) of western physical taxonomy”, but any color lighter than jet black or tan skin, which has unequivocal connotation of value. The ideological meaning is that the “White woman’s body has been written over by a multitude of other meanings including freedom, individualism, democracy, and progress. The white woman, or the western woman, that is featured in many Chinese advertisements denotes a soft, pale face, with a curvy body that not only insinuates sexuality, but also wealth and success. These connotations of the western woman developed a fetish for many Chinese women who also wanted to represent these ideas that, in their minds, couldn’t be achieved through Chinese fashion and culture.

nice thesis potential and extend it well

Lighter hair was also a cosmetic desire western women had that was sought out by Chinese women. Lighter hair in addition to lighter skin meant that you had more beauty value than if you had darker skin and hair.

Location, in other words, depending on where a Chinese woman is from, greatly effects whether or not Chinese women have access to the makeup that allows them to replicate the image of the western woman. Women who live further from cities and work outside a lot have darker, tanner skin as opposed to women who live close to or in cities that, due to less exposure to the sun, have paler, whiter skin tones. Therefore, the paler face connotes wealth in China because if you are wealthy you don’t have to work outside, if you have to work at all. This is an attractive aspect in China because it is the revival of femininity since Mao’s socialist China, where women were asked to be more masculine than feminine. However, although paler skin is the desirable look for Chinese women, it is mainly to attract and entice men.

use the ad as visual evidence to support the thesis statement, thereby tighten the organization

Estee Lauder make-up AdvertisementIn the photo to the left, there is a fair skinned, light-haired, young, western female posing for an ad advertising makeup. It’s clear that this woman is a model and has very attractive facial features that draw consumers to immediately stare at her beauty. Sometimes this stare can become a gaze of envy. Her bright blue eyes draw the consumer in like a black hole. Her skin is soft and if you look close enough, her skin is shining a little. Her skin in contrast with the white backdrop shows that she truly has a pale skin tone. Once the consumer has taken in all of this model’s beauty, the eyes immediately look for what product made this woman look this way. The make-up container that is juxtaposed to her face is the center of the photo, sharing an equal amount of focus with the actual model. The containers label says “CyberWhite, Brilliant Cells”. Because the container says “CyberWhite” on it, the ad is selling the luxury of having paler, whiter skin, as opposed to tan, darker skin.

nice description of the ad which can be divided into different sections according to different denotations/connotations

This ad is a perfect example of what Schein means when she says, “the passion for the Western Woman is a panacea, one that provides a focal point for Chinese longing and one that, in the process, effaces the subjectivity of Chinese women as women.” (Pg. 145) In this quote, Schein points out that the image of the Western woman is a solution for all difficulties faced by Chinese women to present themselves as “beautiful”. Furthermore, that this image of Western women makes the  Chinese woman appear insignificant in contrast to the Western woman’s beauty. This explains the fetish that not only Chinese women have to be like the Western woman, but also that Chinese men have to desire the depiction of the Western woman. This is the reason why many Chinese women sought to lighten their skin tone, hair, and sometimes even change their facial structure to replicate the image of “Beauty” in reference to the Western thought for female beauty.

It would be very interesting to explain how the ad creates western fetish for Chinese consumers


East Meets West: Breast Enhancement


This photo is a screen shot from a ChineseUntitled breast enhancement advertisement. The ad was shown on the Ellen DeGeneres talk show. In the advertisement, women put on the bra like device that is meant to be pulled in repeatedly. This action of pulling the breast together is said to bring other fat from other areas of the body to the breast region. On the Ellen show she mocks how implausible this process would be in effectively enlarging the breast. This begs the question, why are the Chinese willing to try ridiculous things in order to enlarge their breast? When did this obsession start?

well raised questions

During Mao’s China the feminine body was meant to be hidden or just not prevalent. This is because in communism everyone is put at the same level. Both genders wear the same things and are required to be able to accomplish the same tasks. After the fall of Mao’s China came the emergence of western culture to Chinese culture. Chinese women saw that western women had larger breast. They affiliated large breast with the more, at the time, advanced western society. Large breast were then seen as a sign of a high level of civilization. Large breast was a point of liberation for Chinese women. By having more feminine features they separate themselves from past Mao china ideas.   They use large breast to free themselves from the constraining ways of a communist government.

A way that Chinese women differ from western women is in the reasons behind enhancing their breast. In western culture most women get breast enhancements is to please their male counterparts. Westerners get breast enhancements in order to please others and conform to societal guidelines on how an attractive woman should look. In Chinese culture women get breast enhancements in order to please themselves. (also to meet male and social desires)  In advertisements the male gaze upon the women is not prevalent. Ads focus on how the woman is pleasing her own desires. Chinese relate breast to being mature. Once the breast have size the women has bloomed into her whole self. It is interesting to see the comparison between “the why” between western and Chinese culture for getting breast enhancement.

In terms of breast enhancement it is clearly a case of the West entering into eastern culture after the time of Mao’s china. Past that point there is a variation between the reasons why the women want enlarged breast as see above.

nice to compare the fashion of female body between mao’s and post mao China with west as the model.

Sports Illustrated: The Commodification of Gender & Culture

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 11.39.52 AM

Courtney Gallagher

ASNS 2076: Fashion and Gender in China

Prof Shu-chin Tsui



In this Sports Illustrated advertisement, a stark contrast is drawn between the Western female figure and the Chinese male figure, for the purpose of selling the Western lifestyle (sound statement). The exploitation of these two figures is meant to target the desires of Western males, the dominant reader base of Sports Illustrated. The “swimsuit spread” [started in 1970] and is featured on an annual basis. The original intent of the spread was to fill space in the magazine during a time of less sporting activity, as well as heighten sales during a time of slower sale [less sports events], by showing scantily clad women in exotic locations. Since the first edition, this issue of the magazine has become the most popular.


Western Woman v. Chinese Male: Both the gender and ethnic background of the figures featured in this advertisement are being exploited to sell the Western lifestyle. Sports Illustrated exhibits the Western female in her “natural state”—as a temptress, in the wild and ripe for exploitation. The Western woman appears as if she is an exotic place [China], sitting effortlessly — seemingly waiting for someone [waiting to be sold or consumed by the male viewer.] On the other hand, the Chinese male appears as if he is going about his normal work duties. The Chinese male is being used as an ethnic prop used to highlight the exotic location presented. In this way, his life and culture is being exploited and commercialized as a means of selling the Western “way of life.” As a representation of the “ideal, Western lifestyle,” this advertisement highlights Western male fetishism with the foreign, exotic, and authentic Chinese [shown through the Chinese male], as well as their obsession with sexuality and eroticism [shown through the Western woman.] In order to achieve this image, Sports Illustrated exploits both figures.

the significance of the contrast and difference

Naked Body v. Working Body: The naked body of the female is also contrasted with the working body of the male in this advertisement—both as a form of exploitation. The white woman lays on the raft, revealing her body in submission to the male viewer. Her gaze is straight on—suggesting an invitation to act upon desires and sexual fantasies of the male reader. On the other hand, the fisherman is standing and working, fully clothed in his work attire. His gaze is downward in order to avoid the gaze of the viewer, where he serves as a prop to emphasize the “exotic” location. In this way, he is used as a way to further eroticize the already sexualized, naked body where the male viewer sees himself acting upon desire in an exotic location.

stay with the statement of “western life style?”

Location: The hyper-sexualized, submissive Western woman and the traditional Chinese fisherman are both contrasted with the landscape—all of which is commoditized for the reader’s pleasure. The unnatural and demeaning way in which both the male and female is depicted in this picture is contrasted with the natural beauty of the landscape. However, the landscape is blurry allowing the reader to focus more directly to the exploitation of the foreground. The landscape is just another prop to further the erotic and exotic nature of the exploitative picture, which serves to fulfill Western males desire of eroticism and exoticism. The natural and pure beauty of the background is corrupted through its objectification and commodification.

 the significance or the selling point of Chinese landscape?

Both the Western, sexualized woman and Chinese male are dehumanized and objectified in order to arouse the desires of Western males. Through these pages, the Western males can live out their sexual fantasies, while “Orientalizing” Chinese culture. Offensively, it objectifies the Western woman by selling her sexuality, selling her body. The magazine is also selling a skewed, Orientalist vision of Chinese culture—where the inferiority of the impoverished Chinese male serves simply as a prop in the issuers manufactured sexual fantasy. The exploitation of the Western, sexualized woman and Chinese, Orientalized male highlight that the age-old issue of race, culture, and gender is still very much alive in Western society.

nice post




Western Influence on Chinese Advertisements


This is an advertisement for Estee Lauder’s whitening cream that was released in China. Estee Lauder is an American beauty product manufacturer that just recently released products and ad’s in China. Although this product is aimed at a Chinese audience, the model used is white. This is problematic because while both Chinese and American companies are starting to globalize, the white model is still the standard of beauty. This is being further perpetuated by  Western media’s influence on Chinese advertisements.
commodity and media

The first thing I noticed in this advertisement is the use of a white model. Not only is she white, she also has blonde hair and blue eyes. These features are stereotypical of ideal white beauty standards. By using a blonde hair, blue eyed, white model in china, Estee Lauder is trying to show that if Chinese women use their product they will be closer to attaining this white standard of beauty. However, the product is trying to sell a moisturizer that whitens the skin tone. The product itself is called “Cyberwhite.” This lightening of the skin tone is a Chinese beauty standard, not an American one. Estee Lauder is still trying to profit from the Chinese market, while continuing to keep an American beauty standard.

American beauty product and Chinese market : issues raised?


This isn’t an isolated incident, Estee Lauder released a number of these ads featuring a white, blonde hair, blue eyed model while selling a skin whitening product. In both these ads, the background colors are white and blue. This gives the add a calming, refreshing effect. Blue is often connected to the sky and the sea, giving this ad an aspect of a natural state. This paired with the American model can be interpreted as Western beauty standards as being the natural ideal of beauty. Advertising this way to Chinese consumers encourages them to buy products in order to attempt to obtain this “natural beauty standard”

In both advertisements, the model hand is in a very similar position. Her left hand is placed on the side of her face near her chin, while her fingers rest behind or on her ear. By having the model, place her hand on the side of her face, she is framing her face and drawing more attention to her face. She invites the consumer to look at her and she appears to be looking back. This model-consumer connection makes the model appear more human and more attainable. This encourages the sale of the product. Even though both models have blue eyes, blonde hair and impeccable bone structure, they also appear human. They are not completely unattainable, so if you buy this product you can attain this standard of beauty as well!

These advertisements also display both Chinese and English writing, (important and explain) this demonstrates the globalization of the beauty market. Although there is a hybridity of Chinese and American cultures on these advertisements, Estee Lauder’s choice to use a blue-eye, blonde-haired white model proves that the Western beauty standard is still dominant and influential transnationally.

denotation/connotation that could be organized in terms of: western model, cosmetic product, image/textual incorporation, and potential relationship between American commodity and Chinese consumers


Beauty: a class issue

enhanced-buzz-3068-1372866885-8 ICON magazine 2015 - chinese

Advertisement on the left taken from Vogue January 2013, advertisement on the right taken from ICON magazine 2015.

These two advertisements were taken from women’s magazines in China, the one on the right was taken from ICON magazine a Singaporean fashion publication that has been locally established throughout China and the one on the left was taken from Chinese Vogue. In their article, Frith and Yeng describe the difference between locally based publications and multinational publications with a foothold in China. In their estimation, while both groups of publishers rely on advertisement, local publications rely more heavily on mass circulation, while international publications such as Vogue rely on advertisement to secure revenue. Owing to this difference, many local publications have a slightly less high end quality to them, specifically they cater to lower to middle class women while international publications cater to higher class women (1). The difference in these two advertisements, when considered in this context, demonstrates the notion that beauty is a class issue in China and a woman’s ability to conform to beauty standards depends on her ability to afford self alterations.

sound statement 

Content of the advertisement: The advertisement on the right shows a product that alters skin appearance making it appear younger and more pale. The advertisement is cluttered with information about price and  how to obtain the product, which presumes that people to whom this advertisement is targeted, lower to middle class Chinese women, would seek this product out and use it. why? This is in direct contrast to the advertisement from Vogue, which provides no information about the product, in fact it is not clear exactly what product (the dress or the bag) the advertisement features. The name of the company figures prominently at the top of the advertisement but there is no price, store location or phone number. This suggests that this advertisement is not directed at clients who will expressly seek out the product and use it, but rather it is selling a way of life or a persona. In other words, the advertisement presumes that upper class have everything they could need to be beautiful and now are just looking to personify a way of life associated with this beauty.

Choice of models: The difference in the two models further demonstrates the connection between class and beauty. The model on the left appears both younger, specifically because of her “baby face”, and more pale than the one on the right. This fits in with the obsession with paleness and the notions of nennu and shunu that seem to be central to the Chinese notion of beauty. The simple fact that the advertisement targeted towards wealthier women displays the two main ideals of Chinese beauty while the advertisement targeted towards lower to middle class women seems to be striving for these ideals without actually attaining them demonstrates that beauty and wealth are strongly connected, particularly when self-alteration seems to be such a widespread beauty ritual in China.

please elaborate “self-alteration?”

In conclusion, the difference in the layout and content of the advertisments as well as the models themselves, clearly demonstrates the trend that while lower and middle class women seem to constantly strive to meet beauty ideals with various products, upper class women have the resources alter themselves and meet these standards, making beauty a fundamentally class based issue.

(1)Transnational and cultural flows: An analysis of women’s magazines in China, Frith and Feng. Chinese Journal of Communication. 2(2) July 2009, 159-173.

both statement and structure are clear. The issue of class could be further investigated.