Abstract

 

It is said that socially pervasive ideals of femininity are in dialectical relations with women’s lived experiences. It is important to review the interaction between images of beauty and the actual living conditions of the related women groups in discourses, in which one could find the implications of self-enhancement and self-fulfillment, and the emotional and the mental states of the women subjects. The related ideals are always mediated through media and propaganda, and it is interesting to see the strong political and sometimes the national fervors in their portrayals of ideal women’s bodies.  Along with the line of the above thinking, I would like to focus on two overlapping issues while discussing the development of the feminine ideals in China. The first focus is on how this development can be understood within the particular historical and cultural context in China and how it can be related to factors such as economic and political situations. The second focus is with man as the speaking subject in the Chinese patriarchal system, how male imaginations (especially those represented by the literati and later the party leaders) construct the feminine ideals as the projection of their wishes, regrets and the various forms of their fantasies. The discussion will, thus, include some philosophical reflections of female beauty in the Chinese traditions, follow with the case of the courtesan culture in late Imperial China, in which the female beauty notion in China is redefined and represented by male literati under certain political and economic changes. Lastly, this lecture will conclude with the contemporary notion of female beauty in the Communist China, a notion that has departed from its tradition to follow the capitalist globalization.