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Thu, Feb 26, 2009
China Daily/ANN
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Muscles alone have never won over Chinese women

Male beauty has always been a less popular subject because in a male-dominated society men determine who gets to be coveted and ogled. And that's women.

But that's not saying men are not objectified. Attributes of the male sex that are valued in current China, according to editors of two men's magazines, include sophistication and exquisiteness.

Peng Yang, editor at the Chinese edition of GQ, reveals that metrosexuality is the winning theme across all social strata and generations. "Whether in high fashion or in grassroots trends, the standards of male beauty incorporate more and more decorative elements. In the most popular magazines in China, beautiful men are frequently the protagonists in special features. China's television contest shows, such as My Hero and Superboys, invariably select men with boyish charm."

This kind of "refined" taste can be traced back to the 3rd century, when learned men of the Wei and Jin dynasties sang the praises of the delicate beauty of Chinese equivalents of Adonis. One of them was Pan An, whose beauty was chronicled in as many as three articles. When Pan walked by in the street, women threw fruit at him, the ancient Chinese equivalent of bouquets. Every time he went out he could have returned home with a basket of fruit. An ugly man named Zuo Si tried imitating him but only got mud slung at him by female onlookers.

It is strange that even at that time, when men had to plow fields and push carts for a living, muscular strength was not a sought-after trait. Peng says attractive men are not "effeminate", but rather "middle sex", and can be found in other cultures as well. He cites David Beckham and Brad Pitt as examples.

Tou Jiangming, editor-in-chief of the Chinese edition of Esquire, argues that the current vogue of metrosexuality goes deeper than looks. "A man born in 1980s China tends to be an only child. The absence of a sister or brother makes it harder for him to establish his own sexuality. So, gender ambiguity is driving the current vogue."

Peng acknowledges that in Western countries male beauty is more linked with a physique that emphasizes naturalness and stamina. Besides, Western culture accommodates more variety in a male stunner.

Tou claims Nicolas Tse and Li Yapeng, the Chinese stars in the controversial research, are not "representative" of Chinese men, saying: "Tse appeals mostly to teenage girls." Pressed to choose a role model, Tou would pick Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, adding: "Cheung possessed a sunny disposition when young and a very sophisticated audacity when he came out of the closet. Leung gains more in finesse as he ripens into middle age."

Peng chooses Chow Yun-Fat, Yao Ming and Lang Lang as good examples that can be "accepted by the world". They "combine a typical Asian face with a characteristically Chinese confidence and dignity".

However, he cautions that the "latent revolution" caused by trend-conscious urban men has not spread outside major metropolises. "In many places in our country, men do not care much about their own appearance. This is not only reflected in dressing and styling, but in such bad habits as spitting in public. What matters is the way to cultivate the proper image of a male citizen."

readers' comments
I seem to agree from personal experiences; they seemed to flock around those brainy-nerdy types..
Posted by Wong Keat Wai on Thu, 26 Feb 2009 at 17:09 PM


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