The way of becoming beautiful in China in the 1980s-1990s

Liang, Yue
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2013]
This thesis explores the formation of an awakening consciousness of beauty in the 1980s and 1990s in Mainland China. The study focuses on three discourses of beauty that appeared in the Beauty Column of Zhiyin magazine, including individual beauty, natural beauty, and male beauty. Focusing on these areas helps us understand how an emerging discourse of physical appearance allowed people to articulate and experience new forms of personal individualism in Reform Period China (1979 onwards). The thesis contains five chapters. As an overall introduction, the first chapter introduces my research methodology, sources, literature review, and discusses the originality of this study. Chapter Two examines the trend of the individualization of beauty through looking at the buzzword "individual beauty." This chapter considers the appearance of the concept of "individual beauty" as part ofthe historical change of the discourse of individualism in modem Chinese history. Zhiyin magazine expressed an ambiguous attitude toward the individualization of beauty. Expressing a doubtful tone towards global beauty knowledge might have been a way to assert a sense of national control over the process of liberalization and individualism. It is helpful to consider the magazine's sometimes conflicting stances on the issue of beautification, because this might have mirrored national political attitudes. Chapter Three discusses four natural beautification methods promoted by the magazine, including having a good lifestyle, food and herb therapy, exercise, and do-it-yourself cosmetics. These four methods are interrelated and interacted on each other. In contrast to the overpriced imported cosmetic products and technologies, "natural beauty" emphasizes the cooperation of nei (inner) and wai (extemal) beautification, the naturalness and healthiness of beautification methods, and the popularization of low-cost cosmetic items. Chapter Four investigates the idea of male beautification in the 1980s-90s. This chapter reveals that "male beauty" creates a blurry space to redefine masculinity and femininity as varied ideas and practices and implies a series of desirous and uneasy thoughts and emotions among male officials, editors, intellectuals, readers and customers in the 1980s-90s. Meanwhile, gender is just one way to analyze the discourse of beauty. Other factors such as age, occupation, personality, marital status, and social context also have impact on the analysis of beauty. Chapter Five concludes the thesis with a summary of my arguments and some additional prospects for further study.
M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
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