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White Skin: A Chinese Obsession

Skin tone shows class, not race, in China, as masses scamper to have the lightest color skin possible.

“What? You like old skin!?!” a young Chinese guy exclaimed to me in English.

“Old,” was the word he used for dark. I’m not sure if this was a language error or if it was a direct translation of some pejorative Chinese term for dark skin, but I answered in the affirmative anyway.

“Yes, I like old skin.”

Of course we were talking about China’s deeply ingrained obsession with white skin. My companion then pointed across to one of his classmates and told me outright that she had dark skin and was not very beautiful. She agreed. I tried to disagree.

“In your country people have lots of different color skins,” he tried to justify my apparent tastelessness, “so you think all color skin is beautiful. Here in China, everybody has yellow skin, so we think white skin is beautiful.”

This was an understatement.

The Chinese — and East Asians in general — have an all out obsession with light colored skin. This isn’t the direct result of Western influence dictated by Hollywood, advertising, hot Caucasian chicks, or anything like this. No, the people here are not trying to look “American;” their goal is to look like fair skinned Chinese people.

Skin whitening product

White skin is a very long-honed determinant of beauty in China, and spans back to a time long before the first white dude ever set foot in North America. To read through old Chinese literature you’ll find that skin tone is mentioned often and is usually used to reference class or character. In point, skin color is used to show where someone comes from and the type of life they live.

“The feminine ideal during the Han period for women of the court was almost unearthly white, white skin. . .” ran an article in the Global Post.

Unlike in the USA, skin tone in China has virtually nothing to do with race. Generally speaking, this is a culture that has been virtually mono-racial for large swaths of it’s history. In the West we use labels like black, white, brown, yellow, red to express race, but skin tone does not divide people up in China in the same way. With the exception the Uighurs in the west, most of the cultural sub-units in China are of Mongoloid stock. So when talking about skin color here it’s mostly a discussion of what shade someone is within the bounds of this broad racial grouping.

Instead of indicating race, skin color is directly connected to class.

“If your skin is dark it is like you work in the fields,” my companion explained.

Working in the fields = poor.

“A woman should always have fair skin,” a Chinese lady was quoted as saying in a NY Times article. “Otherwise people will think you’re a peasant.”

In a society that is now so vehemently infused with the pursuit of riches and status, nobody wants to think of themselves as looking like a peasant. It is the poor who are thought of as working outside doing manual labor. These are also the people who are thought of as having darker skin — either through being tanned by the sun or as a result of a downward flow of genes through socio/ sexual selection.

This does not mean that people with dark skin can’t rise in China or that people with light skin have an easy ride. This isn’t so absolute: there are very rich and powerful Chinese people with dark skin and there are whiteys cooking tofu in the streets. Rather, it just means that people with light colored skin are associated with wealth and high social standing, and are therefore held as a model for emulation and, by extension, beauty.

Though I do not want to underplay the role that this perspective has in fulfilling it’s own prophecy: skin tone is one of many determinants that will factor into an individual’s success. Therefore, there are other reasons behind why the Chinese aspire to have white skin that goes beyond beauty.

“My future employers like white skin more,” a Hong Kong student was quoted as having said in an article on skin whitening.

This statement just about sums it up.

—————

“Oh my baby’s skin is so dark, my baby’s skin is so dark,” a concerned Chinese mother spoke. “My baby goes out in the sun so much and plays. I can’t take a picture of her now because her skin is so dark.”

She didn’t care that her baby had a big bruise under its eye and no hair, she just cared that its skin was dark.

————–

My wife and her co-teacher had cut out three pictures of babies of a book to serve as educational aid for their class. One was of a Caucasian baby, another of a Chinese baby, and the third was of a black baby.

Three other teachers at the school came into the room they were working in, one after the other. Without prior discussion and independently of each other they all said the exact same thing:

“The black baby is so ugly.”

—————

I was sitting in a cafe drinking a cup of coffee when a very fashionable young woman walked in. She was completely clad in black, her jacket had fashionable metal studs sticking up out of it, she was wearing lens-less glasses, and her skin was corpse pale — of course. I looked over her arms, they sparkled white. On her face was a sort of clown-like layer of white foundation — but I’m unsure if it was really needed. It was impressive to look upon someone who cultivated their body as though it were a piece of art; it was frightening to think of what she had to do to make it that way.

“Your skin is very white,” I complimented her in Chinese.

“I know,” she bluntly responded in English.

It was a matter of fact: this girl was white white.

“How do you make your skin so white?” I asked her.

She told me simply that she covers herself in cream and drinks some kind of concoction — which, at that time, I had no clue even existed.

Keeping skin white, a full time obsession, a national psychosis

When the sun is warm and bright in China it is not uncommon for people to abscond beneath umbrellas. On sunny days in the prime of summer the parks are often empty until evening, and people seem to avoid going outside when they don’t have to — and when they do they often make sure the sun can’t touch them by hiding beneath umbrellas or staying covered in clothing. Not getting tanned is some sort of national psychosis here.

Going to the beach in China is an unexpectedly humorous experience. While most people are scantly clad and swimming there is a very visible minority that are conspicuously overly clothed. Not only are there facekinis covering people’s heads like florescent colored ski masks, but it is not uncommon to see Chinese women in long sleeve shirts, under big sun hats, decked out in sun glasses, gloves, skirts, and tights. Some even wear medical masks. What is interesting is that this is not only a habit for fashion conscious women, as men get in on the act too, and they can be seen walking in the sand wearing full office attire. Apparently, this is all to keep the sun from disfiguring their complexions — something this culture seems very serious about.

But, thankfully, for young women the “be as pale as possible” fashion ethic does not trump the “show as much leg as you can” trend. The ankle to the top of the thigh is fair game for public showing, and, by extension, getting sun light. At least there is some degree of sense withheld in this anti-suntan mania. But, rest assured, any body part exposed exposed to the Chinese sun is probably salved up with sunblock that does not only reflect away UV rays but is equipped with built-in skin whitening agents.

Skin whitening products

They have names like Extreme Bright Brightening Gel, White Swan, Snow White, and Fair and Lovely. They are skin whitening products, and it’s estimated that 50% of Chinese people between the ages of 25 and 34 have used them in some form or another. Needless to say, skin lightening in East Asia is a multi-billion dollar per year business.

The pharmacies here are full of complexion lightening creams, gels, lotions, sprays, and even skin whitening pills. What is even more is that so-called skin lightening chemicals are added to many other types of skin care product, like soap, lotion, and sun screen. So not only does sun block here prevent skin damage from UV rays and lotion sooth the skin, but many of these products have agents which are suppose to lighten it as well.  It is now actually somewhat challenging to find skin care products without whiteners.

But this is nothing new: the Chinese have been finding and coming up with agents to lightening skin tone for ages. Ligustrum, Chinese hawthorn, and Cinnamomum subavenium are herbs that have often been used in skin whitening concoctions.

There are also certain foods that people are told to eat if they desire lighter colored skin. During the Ming Dynasty it was written in a Chinese medicine manual that consuming “three white soup,” which is made from white peony root, white atractylodes, white tuckahoe, and liquorice will make the skin whiter. Another remedy called for grinding up the pearl from seashells into a powder and swallowing it. Other foods, such as peas, pearl barley, lily root, soybean milk, asparagus, white fungus, white turnips, walnuts, and almonds, have also been recommended throughout Chinese history as having skin lightening properties if consumed regularly.

How skin whiteners work

There are two main types of skin whitening product: one works by suppressing melanin production in the body, the other works by sluicing off dead skin cells, revealing the supple, lighter layer beneath.

Melanin production can be lowered by applying topical cremes and lotions or through ingesting medication and, to a lesser extent, various types of food and herbs. Most skin-lightening treatments which aim to reduce melanin do so by inhibiting tyrosinase, a copper containing enzyme. This is often done through applying or ingesting a mix of hydroquinone, arbutin (which is found naturally in the leaves of mulberries, blueberries, and cranberries), Kojic acid (a byproduct of sake production), Azelaic acid, Vitamin C, and a host of other substances.  But mercury generally has a better effect.

Mercury has been used as a skin lightener for many years all around the world. Though banned in many countries it continues being added to skin whitening products, particularly those manufactured and sold in China. Back in 2000, 36 skin whitening creams were tested by researchers at a Hong Kong hospital. Eight of these creams were found to of have mercury levels that exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration safety limits, with two having levels between 9,000 and 65,000 times this amount. All of the cremes that contained mercury were manufactured in China and Taiwan, which lead to researchers to conclude that many other skin whitening creams in these countries more than likely also contained high amounts of this toxin.

When one of the researchers phoned one of the suppliers of a toxic skin whitening cream, the representative was infamously recorded as stating,  “What is wrong with a little mercury in the cream, as long as it can make ladies beautiful.”

The irony of this is the fact that mercury can accumulate in the skin, and eventually have a darkening effect if continuously applied over an extended period of time.

The second method of lightening skin is done by removing the top layer of skin, which is where most of the melanin is contained. So by removing this dead layer a person can make their complexion a little more fair. This is often done through the use of alpha-hydoxy acids, which are applied topically and used to scrub away the dead, melanin rich skin cells. Cryosurgery, which uses liquid nitrogen to destroy the top layer of skin and cause the skin to regenerate, is another method of melanin removal. Lasers can also be used.

白富美 White, Rich, and Beautiful

Living and traveling in China is to be brought face to face with the fact that skin tone is a major factor in determining beauty, class, and status. Though there are no hard coded rules here, social preferences err towards individuals with light skin, and the culture’s ingrained outlook that white = rich and dark = poor is continuously self-fulfilled.

It was reported in the NY Times that two thirds of men in Hong Kong prefer fairer skinned women, while half the women who participated in the survey stated that they want their men whiter.

Social ascension based on qualities of physical attractiveness is not something that is rare in any country in this world, and a culture’s “attractive” genes are ever being pooled upwards.

China is a country that is now obsessed with wealth, power, social ascension, opportunity, and beauty. This entire packaged is often wrapped up in a single symbol:

White skin.

I bluntly questioned a young Chinese woman about her culture’s white skin obsession. “Why do you want white skin?” I asked her.

She deferred to the translating program on her mobile phone, and after punching a few buttons a satisfied look crept over her face. She handed the device to me, and on it was written:

“White skin removes all ugliness.”

一白遮三丑

Filed under: China, Fashion, Women

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3424 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech Republic

62 comments… add one

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  • Denim Burbane April 4, 2013, 2:47 am

    What kind of pills do they drink for white skin? And the specific food they eat

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    • VagabondJourney April 4, 2013, 3:24 am

      Those look like white people to me.

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  • Denim Burbane April 4, 2013, 2:47 am

    What did they also drink?

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  • Denim Burbane April 4, 2013, 1:47 am

    What kind of pills do they drink for white skin? And the specific food they eat

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    • VagabondJourney April 4, 2013, 2:24 am

      Those look like white people to me.

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  • Denim Burbane April 4, 2013, 1:47 am

    What did they also drink?

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  • Mitch April 7, 2013, 12:01 am

    It’s a tragedy that Chinese women so often are insecure about their Chinese appearance. I tell them they look beautiful, and they say, “I think Americans are beautiful! So tall and white skin and blue eyes…” In fact, the desire for light skin isn’t directly influenced by Western beauty standards, but there is also a fair number of Chinese girls who die their hair brown/blonde.

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    • 白靈山 花人 May 3, 2013, 4:08 pm

      Lol Chinese never considered Caucasians as white. East Asians are fair-skinned why do you say they are insecure about their own appearance? To the opposite, it is because they are secure about their own skin color so they want themselves to look white. When Caucasian came to China they were called Gwai Lo which means monstrous animals. They were not seen as white. The white race is just a terminology invented by contemporary Europeans.

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  • Mitch April 6, 2013, 11:01 pm

    It’s a tragedy that Chinese women so often are insecure about their Chinese appearance. I tell them they look beautiful, and they say, “I think Americans are beautiful! So tall and white skin and blue eyes…” In fact, the desire for light skin isn’t directly influenced by Western beauty standards, but there is also a fair number of Chinese girls who die their hair brown/blonde.

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    • 白靈山 花人 May 3, 2013, 3:08 pm

      Lol Chinese never considered Caucasians as white. East Asians are fair-skinned why do you say they are insecure about their own appearance? To the opposite, it is because they are secure about their own skin color so they want themselves to look white. When Caucasian came to China they were called Gwai Lo which means monstrous animals. They were not seen as white. The white race is just a terminology invented by contemporary Europeans.

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      • SLV December 7, 2015, 9:40 pm

        Chinese women are most definitely insecure about their skin. I am an American woman and have been a teacher here for 7 years and I have never known a culture of woman more insecure about their beauty and skin tone than the Chinese. From a psychological perspective…..when someone obsesses about their skin color to the degree that they will put toxic chemicals on or in their body, and go to such lengths to avoid the sun (our most natural form of Vitamin D) to such a degree that is totally unnatural, this is most certainly insecurity. I actually watched a woman recently trying to hail a taxi miss 3 of them because she was too fearful to step out into the sunshine without an umbrella. I thought to myself…My God…what must it be like to live in a mind like that? So fearful of the sun that you can’t hail a taxi. Then I thought the only thing can relate to that is being a vampire. It saddens me, really.

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        • JW900 December 17, 2015, 9:02 pm

          Well, because East Asian people tan VERY quickly, and the cultural preference for East Asian girls happens to be pale skinned. If Caucasians tan as quickly East Asian people, they will hide in umbrellas too. However, I do believe the hailing taxi example is totally overdoing it.

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        • Enchanted Games January 9, 2017, 3:47 am

          Honestly, You will get used to it in a while. The thing is that Asians in general have high standards when it comes to beauty and in the end of the day the most important thing is skin tone (especially considering how skin covers up your whole body…..). After that there is body/facial bone structure (depends on what you prefer),then eyes, teeth (Japanese like crooked teeth while Chinese like braces blah blah blah) and so on. Obviously, this sequence is not one hundred percent correct, but this is the general idea. So in the end of the day I am not surprised that Asians take care of their skin so much and let’s be honest the fact that most of the Korean women get plastic surgery as a birthday present once they reach 16 is more shocking than someone placing chemicals on their skin to look whiter. (And may I note that western culture was even worse when it came to placing harmful chemicals onto your skin and hiding from the sun. Until the American mentality that you are beautiful the way you are became widespread and people started valuing their lives over their looks). And don’t say that Asians should have that mentality as well cause let’s be honest…… You usually aren’t beautiful the way you are. If not then make up and expensive super models wouldn’t exist…..

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    • M C Wang December 17, 2015, 8:33 pm

      The reason why some Chinese want to dye our hair is that we think it’s interesting change our hair color once in a while, and we obviously can’t dye it green or purple, so brown seems a natural choice. Just as many westerners like to dye their hair a different color, it has nothing to do with emulating foreigners.

      As for “I think Americans are beautiful! So tall and white skin and blue eyes…” That’s classical Chinese humility. We are taught that when we are praised by another person, don’t say “thank you” but praise the other person too.

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  • 白靈山 花人 May 3, 2013, 4:16 pm

    Your article is basically hitting the point. Some caucasians think East Asians are obsessed with white skin because of the influence of Caucaisan. This is because they were taught Europeans are the white race. However, it is only a word invented by Europeans themselves. The fact is both Europeans and East Asians are fair-skinned. The Chinese did not call themselves the white race because they have not seen Africans in their lives, not knowing the existence of people with black skin. In the Tang Dynasty when Europeans visited China, they were seen as hairy monstrous animals. Skin color was not seen as a issue because the difference was so subtle that the ancient people only focused on hair, nose and other facial appearance. The obsession with white skin of East Asians stem from their own culture. They are fair-skinned people but when tanned, they look darker than how they should look like. People working as labors are exposed to more sunlight and tanned, thus considered as ugly. That is why East Asians love white skin. Those Caucasians who are so arrogant and think they influenced Chinese to love white skin, please stop being so funny. East Asians want to look more themselves instead of you guys.

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    • emily October 21, 2013, 6:28 pm

      Absolutely. Thank you for commenting. There seems to be a huge misconception about the topic of East Asian wealth, beauty, and class. They value pale skin because it is viewed as beautiful, and not because they want to look Caucasian. This view of beauty arrived from the culture itself. It’s too bad that some people will believe anything they read or hear from unverified sources.

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      • Wade Shepard October 21, 2013, 11:06 pm

        Exactly. And Caucasians are used in Chinese advertising etc . . . not because they think they’re really all that cool or they want to be like them but because they represent wealth/ modernity (and, of course, the beauty thing with light colored skin).

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        • carla November 4, 2013, 12:32 am

          well, lemme ask, because i’m black in the US, and growing up no one ever made me aware of my skin. i wasn’t even aware that skin color was a big deal to anyone until i got into college and started surfing around on the net a lot more in my free time, and i was blown away and still am that anyone really cares…
          but i would like to know if chinese people look at facial features at all, as a determinant of beauty? like, can you be butt ugly in the face but still be considered prettiest by your average chinese person based solely off skin color, if your skin happened to be the ‘fairest’ (whitest)? i would think not, but after reading this article im not sure anymore and would therefore hate to assume…
          i’ve never met a chinese person, i don’t think, so this is all news to me.

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          • Wade Shepard November 4, 2013, 2:10 am

            They say that white skin removes a hundred uglinesses — meaning, yes, that even if you’re otherwise butt ugly you can still be deemed attractive if your skin is light (in theory anyway). But facial features, body dimensions, etc . . do play into the perception of beauty.

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  • 白靈山 花人 May 3, 2013, 3:16 pm

    Your article is basically hitting the point. Some caucasians think East Asians are obsessed with white skin because of the influence of Caucaisan. This is because they were taught Europeans are the white race. However, it is only a word invented by Europeans themselves. The fact is both Europeans and East Asians are fair-skinned. The Chinese did not call themselves the white race because they have not seen Africans in their lives, not knowing the existence of people with black skin. In the Tang Dynasty when Europeans visited China, they were seen as hairy monstrous animals. Skin color was not seen as a issue because the difference was so subtle that the ancient people only focused on hair, nose and other facial appearance. The obsession with white skin of East Asians stem from their own culture. They are fair-skinned people but when tanned, they look darker than how they should look like. People working as labors are exposed to more sunlight and tanned, thus considered as ugly. That is why East Asians love white skin. Those Caucasians who are so arrogant and think they influenced Chinese to love white skin, please stop being so funny. East Asians want to look more themselves instead of you guys.

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    • Matt July 25, 2015, 12:34 pm

      Might add the fact that not only was it the workers that had darker skin because of outside labor but also that the royalty always had verry white skin because of staying indoors and they where considered the most beautiful. 90% of the influence comes from this.

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      • Batterytrain December 8, 2015, 11:57 pm

        nope, that’s a lie that can be debunked easily, you are just parroting eurocentric lies and retarded theories about white skin being automatically beautiful or being white as such.

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        • Colonel Gunter Brumm February 12, 2016, 10:23 pm

          oY VEy!

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    • Nomasidiotas September 29, 2015, 9:10 pm

      It doesn’t appear to be Caucasians who think they influenced Chinese, rather it is people who are looking to scapegoat Europeans and their colonialism as the source of this world wide preference for white skin. The elitism among Chinese for lighter skin appears to be based on classism not racism.

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  • Xiao May 28, 2013, 9:06 pm

    Get over it. We east Asians are fair skinned people to begin with so you don’t have a monopoly on being light skinned, only light brained. Ask any east Asian if they want to have a pink tone like Caucasians. We call that “pig skin”. Also, we tend to think white people age too quickly and it shows by the age of 30.

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    • VagabondJourney May 28, 2013, 11:35 pm

      Then why are East Asians dumping millions of dollars into skin whitening products?

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      • 白靈山 花人 July 4, 2013, 9:09 am

        Because they want to look more themselves once tanned. Skin-whitening products came into being in China, Korea and Japan long before they came into contact with Caucasians. In ancient times Caucasian were called by Chinese “鬼” because of their hairy appearance not because of skin colour. Using whitening product does not mean they are not white but means they think they are not white enough subject to UVB, especially after being sunburned.

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      • 白靈山 花人 July 4, 2013, 9:15 am

        Europeans and Americans are not as enchanted as East Asians by “White skin” largely because of African immigration. In the U.S, using “whitening products” may imply your bias agaisnt dark skinned African descents. Thus the social practice is to minimize judgments on skin color and there has been a trend of beautifying “Tanned sexy bronze skin color”. However in more homogeneous East Asian societies, “light-skin” equals to beauty has been held as a tradition for thousands of years. But being brainwashed by the out-fashioned race theories proposed by Westerners, many East Asian fail to think critically and continue to deem themselves as “Yellow”. But obviously the “Yellow Race” does not exist. Even dark-skinned Austroid are “light brown” instead of yellow.

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        • VagabondJourney July 6, 2013, 6:42 am

          I agree that we don’t tend to be enchanted by white skin as much as East Asians but it is my impression that this has far less to do with African immigration than Europe/ Australia/ USA/ Canada being 80+% Caucasian. We’re not enchanted by it because it is not rare.

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          • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 7:03 am

            Why don’t you have a look at the “cosmetic history” of France and other European countries? Centuries ago “whitening products” prevailed in these European countries and people were obsessed with making their skin white and smooth. Think about the fairy tales in Europe, such as “Snow white”. These people with pure white skin were depicted as the most beautiful people in the world. Same story in China, where phrases like “冰肌玉骨” (skin as smooth and white as ice and bone as pure as jade), 肌膚若美瓷唇若櫻(skin as stunning as smooh porcelain and lips shining like cheriies),明眸皓齒百媚生, are used to describe ancient Chinese women. Words like “white, snow, ice, jade, porcelain, pure and fair” are most commonly used in China and other East Asian countries to describe women. In ancient times, Europeans were described as having “pinkish” skin instead of white skin. Because the Chinese thought themselves as having pale white skin. However, we cannot deny that people living in the South, who might be mixed with Austroid, tend to have darker skin than some Europeans.

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  • Xiao May 28, 2013, 8:06 pm

    Get over it. We east Asians are fair skinned people to begin with so you don’t have a monopoly on being light skinned, only light brained. Ask any east Asian if they want to have a pink tone like Caucasians. We call that “pig skin”. Also, we tend to think white people age too quickly and it shows by the age of 30.

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    • VagabondJourney May 28, 2013, 10:35 pm

      Then why are East Asians dumping millions of dollars into skin whitening products?

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      • mike August 3, 2015, 2:12 am

        because asians tan easier and browner than european caucasians. they tend to tan red or pink especially the really fair skin and redheads like nicole kidman. they cant tan at all, just burn up looking like a bring pink hot tamale.

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      • Enchanted Games January 9, 2017, 3:49 am

        HAHAHA all the Asians are using these products xD They are simply promoting the East Asian look

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        • Wade Shepard February 5, 2017, 3:27 am

          That’s kind of true.

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  • 白靈山 花人 July 4, 2013, 9:16 am

    By the way, please do not use the ugly picture in your article to represent East Asian or Chinese. Many Westerners biasedly use darker skinned pictures to depict East Asians. But it does not represent the truth of East Asian skin color at all.

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    • VagabondJourney July 6, 2013, 6:42 am

      It seems to be as if there is a Chinese bias for only showing light skinned people in media/ advertising/ film and pretending that everybody in the country looks this way. This is not the case, for every light skinned Chinese person there seems to be 20 with darker skin that are ignored.

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      • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 6:51 am

        Not every one in China looks as white as snow but you can refer to “jomon” and “yayoi” in Japan. It is a very similar story in the mainland as for “lighter skin” and “darker skin”. “Jomon” refers to indigenous Japanese who are hypothesized to originate from the Pacific Islands, namely Austroid. “Yayoi” are from the mainland, especially Korea, China and East China, who later on became the ruling class in Japan. “Jomonjin” have darker skin, big round eyes, flat nose and thick lips while “Yayoijin” have light skin, long eyes, pointy nose, small mouth and thin lips”. In China, people are also mixed between these two races with “light-skinned” Yayoi race exerting a much stronger influence. Most Chinese (North, East and Central” appear to have light skin while Southerners, especially Cantonese tend to have dark skin. Most Chinese residents living overseas, particularly decades ago mainly descend from Cantonese. Hence the public image of Chinese people having dark skin in the West.

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      • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 7:16 am

        By the way, most of you European descents living in China have same complexion or darker color than the local Chinese.

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        • VagabondJourney July 6, 2013, 7:21 am

          Why do you find darker skin offensive?

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          • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 8:07 am

            I’m was not exactly talking to you. And for your question, because in China, saying a person having “dark skin” a very offensive and outrageous. Dark skin is taken for granted as ugly and fair skin as beautiful. I was not refuting your argument which is mostly correct. But most Caucasians, when hearing “East Asians” like fair skin, would spontaneously think East Asians like Caucasian. This is ridiculous because in China when you extol a person as “White and beautiful”, no one would think of Caucasian. What is in their minds is a fair skinned East Asian.

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            • VagabondJourney July 6, 2013, 8:25 am

              That’s a key point to really drive home. You’re were correct in a previous comment when you said something to the effect of Caucasians thinking that they are exclusively have the skin tone that’s most often referred to as being “white.”

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      • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 7:21 am

        Don’t be ridiculous. I have compared numerous group photo where both East Asians(excluding Cantonese or Hong Kongers) and Caucasians present. It is very obvious that they have similar complexion, although occasionally East Asians would appear whiter than Caucasian or vice versa. Stop calling yourself white because you are not white in the least. You are just some light skinned European descents who have same color as East Asians but you have lower IQ than them. But I have to admit you have stronger body build than East Asians.

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        • VagabondJourney July 6, 2013, 7:30 am

          Ok. If you feel that most Chinese people have very light skin that’s fine with me. You can believe that if you want, and if you live and work in the upper class sphere, which I’m guessing you do, that may be your observation.

          What bothers me is that you seem to attach a sort of status to lighter colored skin and become offended by the suggestion that most Chinese people may not darker complexions than the average Caucasian. Really, what do you have against darker skin tones?

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        • VagabondJourney July 6, 2013, 7:40 am

          I didn’t call myself anything. Again, please go back and read this article it says clearly that Europeans have nothing to do with this East Asian preference so I have no idea why you keep bringing this up.

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  • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 7:15 am

    In the past, Chinese used “以玉為骨雪為肌“ to describe women, meaning “use jade as bone and snow as skin”. This is largely due to the dominant civilization in Central China, Northern China and Eastern China, where people tend to have pale white skin, rather than in the South that borders Vietnam, where the mixed residents tend to have darker skin. The word “White race” was created after the industrialization and before WW1, when the West began to rise and the East began to collapse. The European used “white” to describe themselves out of nationalism and “yellow” to describe Orientals in a derogatory meaning. However, when we view ancient literature, Southeastern Asians (Austroid) and Africans were both described by Chinese and Europeans as “dark skinned” race, but we cannot find any literature describing East Asians as having dark skin neither in China or in Europe. Even when Europeans (mainly Dutch) visited Japan, they described Japanese as a race most of whom have fair skin, who tend to enjoy higher class and a small proportion of darker skin, who tend to be farmers and labors. This, interestingly, coincides with the most recent theory of Japanese origins coming from both “Jomon” (Pacific Islanders” and “Yayoi” (Mainland East Asians). Additionally, East Asians and Southeastern Asians are two completely different races. But due to ancient immigration, the “mixed” people tend to share some similarities. However, if we compare a more pure Southeastern Asian and East Asian, their differences are salient, so are their genetic differences.

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  • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 7:35 am

    Let’s have a look at wikipedia the term “Gwailo” 鬼佬 and see how narcissist European descents are. In the English version, Gwailo is interpreted as “White Ghost” who, thanks to their pale white skin, were seen by ancient Chinese as ghost because ghost usually have white skin. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH I’m laughing my head off this interpretation. Let’s turn to the Chinese version of this lingo, where Gwailo is interpreted as “Hairy monsters having green eyes and red or yellow curly hair, which resemble the evil spirits descried in Chinese chronicles. As a matter of fact, the earliest close contact between Europeans and Chinese was Russians and Qing Dynasty. Back than Russia was translated by Chinese as ”羅刹人”. ”羅刹” is monstrous spirit existing in Indian sagas. Russians who have green/blue eyes, curly hair beards and furry body were captured by the ancient Chinese as “hideous animals” thus they were called 羅刹人. Back then even the Qing Dynasty was one of the worst periods in China, China’s GDP still far outperformed any European countries. They still looked down upon Westerners as barbarians until the Great Britain embraced a new era of new technology and fortune. Later on 羅刹 was reinvented as 俄羅斯 to eliminate the derogatory meaning.

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    • VagabondJourney July 6, 2013, 7:41 am

      OK. So you’re a racist. That’s not a surprise.

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      • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 7:53 am

        Well I was adding some information to your article rather than refuting your argumentation.

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      • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 7:55 am

        Because most Caucasian won’t come to truly understand this article because they, as well as East Asians have been brainwashed and tend to interpret obsession with white skin as a result of racism and Caucasian influence.

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        • VagabondJourney July 6, 2013, 7:55 am

          That’s true.

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  • 白靈山 花人 July 6, 2013, 7:47 am

    Long before any contact between the East and West, Chinese used “黃” yellow to describe people who are seriously ill or suffering from famine or close to death. Only a dying person would appear to have yellow skin. “炎黃子孫” does not mean descent of yellow skin. “黃” in this context refers to “the redundant and arable yellow soild”, “as yellow as gold” “wealth”. It does not refer to a person’s skin color. However, the Chinese education tend to mix up the concept of “炎黃子孫” and “黃種人”. Kids are instilled this misbelief that Chinese are yellow. The most striking story I’ve encountered in person was when a Chinese girl who was then studying in the U.K, who is 10 times whiter than a common Brit, once said to me”We yellow people should be confident about ourselves and not marry any white people”. When I checked her photo shot with her British classmates, I wondered why this pale white Chinese girl called herself a yellow girl while she is 10 times whiter than Caucasian.

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  • maximilion September 5, 2013, 10:06 am

    The fact is The Asians here can try to justify the claims of race not being a factor for something other, all they want,but race has a lot to do with it..
    The asians have always wanted white skin because White=wealthy=rich=powerful=status meaning top of the class in every arena
    Dark skin =poverty=hardship=unhappiness basically meaning looked down upon and bottom of the gutter,you will find many asians thinking this way of dark and black people..
    Its true in many races ..Dark skin is frowned upon..this will always be the case,because the lower class people and slaves were dark skinned,even in the slavery era,the lighter skinned slaves were treated better..and this mindset has passed on for generations and will do so for generations to come.

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    • 白靈山 花人 September 6, 2013, 9:30 am

      What kind of Asian are you talking about? First of all Asia is a geographical concept and Indian, Southeastern Asian and East Asian are three different races. Just like Egyptians (living in Africa) are different from other Africans.
      Second of all yes white skinned people are top of the social class in any arena, which means East Asians are the ruling class of the world until pinkish skinned Europeans launched the industrial revolution while the East Asians shut their doors and became complacent about their past achievements.
      The world is simply going back to its original order when white skinned East Asians were the ruling class, second to which were pinkish/whitish skinned Europeans, followed by relatively daker skinned Middle Easterns (Persians), dark skinned Southeastern Asians (Austroid) and very darkd skinned Africans.

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    • 白靈山 花人 September 6, 2013, 9:36 am

      Europe is falling. The past 300 years of magic that happened in Europe is over. New technology will be coming from East Asia and the U.S. 300 years ago, China shut its door and frowned upon inferior Europeans, South Eastern Asians and other people living in the rest of the world. When it woke up and realized that Europe had accomplished a great revolution, which could have already taken place in China 500 years ago, everything was too late. East Asia began to fall and the world became Euro-centered.
      My friend, the time when you guys wake up and astound by the world new order, or maybe the old order to be more precise, is not far from the time being.

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  • Solar September 6, 2013, 8:22 pm

    Using skin tone as a determinant of race is a recent, European concept. The ancient Chinese had pretty clear ideas of racial (or rather, ethnic) differences, but none of it was based on skin tone. The preference for whiter skin tones has been there, just like Wade said, long before any European set foot in China. It has nothing whatsoever to do western culture or white people.

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  • notachinese December 6, 2013, 9:30 pm

    The average Chinese has brown skin, however the middle class and the rich are really obsessed with white skin, from bleaching their skin in a daily basis to wearing “wacky” outfits in order to protect themselves from the sun…
    Asian surgery to modify the entire shape of their eyes, nose and their faces, going too far trying to achieve a “white” look. NEVER being in a place as racist as China… really disgusting to see how they treat each other.
    I really wish someone could tell them that no matter what they do, they are not and they’ll never be white.

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  • Dustin Stephens January 5, 2014, 6:01 am

    Sounds superficial to me. I don’t need to read the book, because it’s title is “White”. I know it must be good and it would be a waste of time to find out for myself, because everyone told me it was a good book(sarcasm).
    I find it unattractive when people go to GREAT LENGTHS to change their appearance. It wreaks of insecurity. I will not date a girl with fake tits, or too much makeup/jewelry. I prefer dark skinned asian women to any other type of women. That is not say say that I find others unattractive, just my preference. The important thing to remember is that skinpower does not compare to brainpower. And yes you can judge a book by it’s cover, but you might just pass up something great. In my culture, fake tits and ferraris are a sign of wealth. Skin tone is just an indicator of how much time you spend outside.

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  • Batterytrain December 9, 2015, 12:05 am

    Ah good to see that the blogger doesn’t want to accept the truth and is too P.C but oh well!

    It seems truth is stranger then fiction!

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  • Monk December 18, 2015, 12:42 am

    Hi Wade, nice article. Just wanted to offer some nuanced insights from native Chinese guy’s perspective:
    1. As you have said, the Chinese preference for pale skinned women is deeply rooted in its culture, with documented evidence dating as early as the Warring States Period (475 BC – 221BC), long before the Chinese had any contact with foreigners.
    2. The preference for pale skin is ONLY restricted to women. The most preferred skin colour for men is tan, but not too tanned. Take a personal example: I am a quite pale skinned guy, and was bullied by classmates in middle school for “being too white”, i.e. “too girly”, and was given all sorts of nicknames… In a nutshell, in traditional Chinese view, girls are preferred to be pale skinned to be feminine, while guys are preferred to be tan skinned to be masculine.
    3. As you said, the reason for the preference for pale skinned women in Chinese culture is that in traditional China, high-class women normally resided in “boudoirs” (闺阁) and didn’t have the chance to receive much sun exposure, and were therefore more pale skinned than other women.
    However, for men, either high-class or low class, they always had to do some sort of public work outside, so the skin colour was always tanned. (Of course, high-class men wouldn’t have been as tanned as peasants.) Therefore, tan skinned men is associated with “strength” while pale skinned men carry the stigma of being “weak” or “girly”.

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    • Monk December 18, 2015, 1:02 am

      I’m probably reading too much into this, Wade, but you do understand that the skin whitening (美白) and the 白富美 standard is only related to women, and has nothing to do with men, right?

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      • Enchanted Games January 9, 2017, 3:48 am

        Yeah for men you have the tall handsome rich one

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