Sadness in the eyes of those who behold her

By Lin Jinghua ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-08-27 08:52:01

Sadness in the eyes of those who behold her

[Photo by Liang Luwen/China Daily]

Once upon a time the maiden looked at her reflection and said: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"

These days she is just as likely to put that question to her mobile phone at work or in the car.

With voice-recognition enabled phones the quick-witted maiden who lives inside that little box may well shoot back: "What do you mean by fairest?"

A fair enough question, too.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder? Beauty in the lens of the iPhone?

In ancient China, single eyelid slanted eyes were considered the most beautiful, something reflected in traditional Chinese paintings.

They are phoenix eyes, with the corners raised to the temple, resembling a flying phoenix. For centuries the four beauties Xishi, Wang Zhaojun, Diaochan and Yang Yuhuan, who lived in four different dynasties over the past 2,600 years, have been the poster girls for the Chinese female aesthetic. Each gives off a different aura, but if the paintings are to be believed they had at least one thing in common: they were endowed with phoenix eyes.

But fashions and tastes change. Whereas it used to be that any Chinese female born with single-lid smaller eyes would have been considered to have drawn the long straw, these days, it seems, double-lidded bigger eyes are all the rave.

"Thank you for my double-lidded big eyes, straight nose, slim face, and trim figure," may well be the daily prayer that those so endowed offer to the god called Destiny.

Not everyone is so lucky, but why let Destiny decide your aesthetic lot in life? Enter the magic hands and tools of the plastic surgeon, which have helped save many Chinese from what they considered their hell of a life shuttered behind singled-lidded small-eyes.

The media give cosmetic surgery a lot of attention, largely because of the spotlight they shine on the faces of celebrities who go under the knife in order to look better, but you do not need to be famous or incredibly rich to have a face-lift. Indeed in China many young graduates, often with an eye on their career and marriage prospects are having cosmetic surgery.

Recently it has been reported in Jingling Evening News in Nanjing that the plastic surgery department of the city's major maternal and child care center has treated more than 40 patients every day since the start of summer holidays in early July, double the average daily number. The spike in numbers is due, apparently, to the fact that the holiday period gives these young women two months to recover from surgery.

Three of the most popular procedures are said to be those on double-lidded eyes, to make faces smaller using injections; cutting eye corners to make bigger eyes; and straightening noses, something that young men also go in for.

A psychologist in Beijing has suggested that a far better option is to seek psychological help because the root cause, she says, is psychological.

My niece who is in her third year at university and who for the past few years has contemplated having plastic surgery, much to the chagrin of her mother, says: "I know I would be more confident if I had double eye-lidded eyes."

"But you are pretty," her mother always tells her, something that the young woman rejects.

"I know that for all parents it is their child that is the most beautiful," she says. "But my friends call me Small Eyes."

I once tried to humor her by saying that animals such as horses, cows, deer and even pigs have big double eye-lidded eyes. I added that personality is much more important that looks, and that in any case it is good that we all look different, but she seemed unconvinced.

The other day I ran into an acquaintance who until recently had beautiful single-lidded phoenix eyes. I barely recognized her because those eyes had vanished, replaced by a pair of puffed up objects on her face on top of which sit the very double eyelids she dreamed of.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the saddest of them all?

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