What are the differences between Chinese, Japanese and Korean beauty standards?

It is common for the outside world to confuse different cultures like Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans.

It is because people from these countries look alike at first glance. But their histories, traditions, and beauty traditions are different.

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Although their beauty standards are similar at a certain level, there are key differences.

Let’s examine the difference between these countries’ beauty standards.

What are the differences between Chinese, Japanese and Korean beauty standards? 1

Chinese Beauty Standards

Starting with Chinese culture, the beauty standards in China include having white skin.

Even if we see the traditional Chinese movies or theatre, we would see women going out of their way to have light skin tones. This is why plastic surgery and cosmetic products are highly prevalent in China.

Another beauty standard is to have a slim body.

You would hardly see fat people in China, especially when it comes to the younger generation. It may seem healthy initially, but the youth goes to extreme lengths just to be thin.

This messes with their health, but they have no issue taking risks.

What are the differences between Chinese, Japanese and Korean beauty standards? 2

Japanese Beauty Standards

The Japanese have an obsession with large eyes and clear skin.

The females often undergo surgery to double eyelids to have big eyes like Europeans. This is not just in Japan but is part of the golden Asian beauty standards!

It isn’t natural, but it is one of the most talked-about Japanese beauty standards. The element of having fair skin is common in Japan and China.

It could be that fair-skinned people were known to be better than others in ancient history.

It is quite a common concept of beauty in most Asian countries. The Japanese also love glowing skin without dark spots or pimples. They follow a secret beauty and skincare routine to maintain their glowing skin.

They would prefer someone with clear skin over someone with skin issues.

On top of that, the Japanese places great importance on height. A taller person has a higher chance of getting promoted, has better social status, and is seen to be more successful than a shorter person.

To be clear, we inform you about these standards in their society. We don’t intend to criticize or approve of them.

What are the differences between Chinese, Japanese and Korean beauty standards? 3

Korean Beauty Standards

The Koreans are more inclined towards a slim figure, fair skin color, and a proper jawline. This may seem similar to Japanese and Chinese. However, you would quickly determine the difference when you see celebrities from all these countries.

They have low regard for someone with a broad face; they prefer a round face.

Being born with a V-shaped face with a pointed chin makes someone favorable in communities. 

You would see many female celebrities from Korea with doll-like figures and faces. It is because they want to impress the residents of their country, and they know what they want.

This may be surprising. However, a survey from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reveals South Korea as among the top 10 countries for having plastic surgery.

This is why there are hundreds of thousands of ads about plastic surgery in mainstream media.

Plastic surgery is as common in South Korea as makeup is in East Asia and the rest of the world.

Recently, the trend has been further powered up by the fame of Korean idols and boy and girl bands worldwide.

The Western Influence

Till the ’70s, when China was still not under Western influence, people preferred tan color and muscular bodies. This is because these characteristics show hard work and determination.

The Chinese nation worked hard to become one of the superpowers in the world. The country was stuck in poverty and drugs when it got independence, but they were successful in turning around their luck in the coming years.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Hollywood influence got the best of the Chinese, especially the youth. The wealth was coming in, and the Western concept of beauty also inspired them.

This is why most females started using makeup products that made them look fairer than usual.

The beauty standards of society also took a shift, and they started preferring girls with slim waists and fair skin. It was also related to wealth because it is easier to have fair skin when not working under the sun.

Historically, the Japanese were warriors and preferred strong women over slim girls. Times have changed, and so have the beauty standards in Japan.

There is a growing trend of having a slim body even if you have to sacrifice your health.

Everyone prefers a slim figure, but the only difference is that the Japanese prefer round faces till today.

It connects them with the traditional beauty standards they have kept alive for generations. That is why you wouldn’t hear about many plastic surgeries in Japan.

People from Korea took the Western impact quickly, and we are talking about South Korea here. North Korea is still kind of disconnected from the whole world.

After World War 2, the Americans took control of South Korea, and until today, you can still find a few American bases there.

The Americans brought Hollywood and transformed Korea’s beauty standards in a few years.

Although they don’t prefer round faces and are more into v-shaped ones, they are fond of Western beauty features, including fair skin and large eyes.

Naturally, Koreans have glowing skin, so getting a youthful appearance and fair skin using just a few fairness creams isn’t tricky. Skin fairness is also connected to the wealth of the family or a person, just like in the Japanese culture.

This is why most Koreans look up to their social media and electronic media stars as inspiration.

Korean beauty standards have become quite a talking point all over the globe. Millions want to look like Koreans to be famous in their community.

Historical Icons and Movements Shaping Beauty Standards

Recognizing the impact of these historical movements and cultural figures helps us understand the foundations of contemporary beauty standards in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean societies. 

These influences have left a lasting legacy, shaping perceptions of beauty across generations.

Chinese Culture

  • Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD): The Tang Dynasty is often considered a golden age in Chinese history. During this period, a preference for plumpness and a rounded face symbolized health and prosperity. 

    This era significantly influenced traditional Chinese ideals of feminine beauty, emphasizing softer features.

  • Yang Guifei (719–756 AD) was one of ancient China’s Four Beauties. She was known for her beauty during the Tang Dynasty and set standards for elegance and grace. 

    Her features and style became iconic, impacting beauty ideals for centuries.

Japanese Culture

  • Heian Period (794–1185 AD): The Japanese aristocracy set beauty standards in this era. 

    Women idealized a look known as “bijin” (beautiful person), characterized by pale skin, long black hair, and a slender form. This aesthetic has had a lasting impact on Japanese beauty standards.

  • Kabuki Theater (17th Century): All-male actors influenced beauty standards. They wore elaborate makeup and distinctive hairstyles. 

    Kabuki actors’ stylized and expressive features left a mark on Japanese perceptions of beauty. They showcased a blend of traditional and theatrical aesthetics.

Korean Culture

  • Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392 AD): During the Goryeo Dynasty, Confucianism played a significant role in shaping beauty ideals. 

    Women with fair complexions and gentle features were considered ideal, reflecting Confucian virtues.

  • Hwang Jini (1506–1560 AD): She was a famous Joseon Dynasty gisaeng. People celebrated her intelligence and beauty. 

    Her influence extended to fashion and beauty standards. This contributed to the popularity of certain hairstyles and attire during her time.

My Take: Navigating the Global Impact of East Asian Beauty Standards

As I observe the influence of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean beauty standards on the world, it’s a mixed bag. This is because the impact is not confined to personal choices but has rippled into global trends.

On a positive note, there’s this cool cultural vibe, thanks to the elegance of the Tang Dynasty and the timeless ‘bijin’ from Japan.

Thanks to these countries, there are also more available organic skincare products to choose from. It adds a splash of diversity to the beauty scene.

But let’s not ignore the flip side that reveals a complex interplay. The pressure to fit into these standards messes with personal identity. Relationships, careers, and how we see ourselves get tangled up.

Zooming out, the global scene gets even trickier. Are we embracing diversity, or is it just a surface-level trend?

Balancing our local pride with what the world expects is a real challenge. 

These beauty standards showcase cultural richness. However, they also throw some curveballs. They offer global appreciation but come with a bunch of challenging expectations.