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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?

Howdy y'all (inserts imaginary curtsies and customary bows). Fear not, my fellow classmates, for my group will not be talking about anything depressing or gruesome like what we did previously. Today, my group will be exploring the beauty standards in Ancient China and Ancient Greece. Let's begin by taking a glimpse of what was considered beautiful in each civilization.  

Ancient China

The Four Greatest Beauties of Ancient China
The Four Greatest Beauties of Ancient China

The picture above shows the four great beauties of Ancient China (from left to right: Xi Shi, Wang Zhaojun, Diao Chan and Yang Guifei). These women were said to be so beautiful that they were able to influence emperors, move political mountains and even caused birds to forget how to fly and fall out of the sky. So, what did women in Ancient China have to have to be considered beautiful? While beauty standards in Ancient China varied from time to time (just like fashion), women with red lips and white teeth were generally thought to be beautiful. Other standards of beauty for women in Ancient China included being tall and slender and having large eyes and nicely shaped eyebrows (eyebrows on fleek!) (sorry, we just had to). Most women had their hair piled up on their heads (just like the Diao Chan in the portrait above) to add to their height and make them appear taller and more slender. Scholars in Ancient China even took to writing about what was considered true beauty. An example would be the excerpt below, which is a description of classic beauty from 57th poem in The Book of Odes.

"Her fingers were like the blades of the young white-grass;Her skin was like congealed ointment;Her neck was like the tree-grub;Her teeth were like melon seeds;Her forehead cicada-like ; her eyebrows like [the antenne of] the silkworm moth;What dimples, as she artfully smiled!How lovely her eyes, with the black and white so well defined!"

The Four Best Looking Men in Ancient China
The Four Best Looking Men in Ancient China

Like the Four Great Beauties, the men in Ancient China were not lacking in the looks department either. The picture above stars four of the best looking men in Ancient China (from left to right: Pan An, Song Yu, King Lanling and Wei Jie). These men were said to be so handsome that they constantly had swarms of girls encircling them, where Wei Jie fainted as a result. While little can be found about the beauty standards of men in Ancient China, it is worth noting that men were regarded more for their intelligence, nobility and morality instead of their looks.

Ancient Greece


Like the Aphrodite, women in Ancient Greece were considered beautiful if they were voluptuous and had wide hips and large breasts (FYI: Did you know that beauty was very often portrayed through Ancient Greek's art? It is through art from Ancient Greece where we get an idea about what beauty meant to them.). Other than that, women who had red or blondhair were also considered to be beautiful. Ancient Greek women valued their hair, where hair was provided more than aesthetic pleasure but was a way of showing which class you belonged to. Women from a higher class had long hair whereas slaves had short hair. Based on their tendency to apply lead onto their skins in a bid to whiten them, it can be seen that fair skin was also seen as standard of beauty in Ancient Greece. While little is said about the other features that an Ancient Greek women must have to be considered beautiful, Ancient Greek women did care about their appearance and self-presentation enough to go through tedious regimes and also apply makeup, where they would wear khol (eyeliner) around the eyes and lipstick. Eyebrows (though eyebrow would be more appropriate) were also not to be neglected and they were often connected (unibrow), filled in and darkened with a colored pigment.

Statue of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros (Girl, look at that body)
Statue of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros (Girl, look at that body)

Just like the picture above, men in Ancient Greece had to have similar physique to be considered good looking or beautiful. (FYI: The body of the statue above was considered as perfect and was the ideal male body type.) Well defined muscles and being physically fit were the standards of beauty for men (FYI: Men were known to train up to 8 hours a day. Whuuuttttt...). Since, like mentioned above, beauty was often portrayed in Ancient Greek art and being a ripped male basically meant that a man was beautiful, most of the Ancient Greek male sculptures featured physiques similar to the one above. (BTW, do they not just have the most carefully sculpted 8-pack and impeccable pecs?! Breathes heavily.) FYI: The Ancient Greeks were so known for their emphasis on physique that a defined body part in the modern day is named after Apollo. Click here.

After seeing the standards of beauty in Ancient China and Ancient Greece, it is safe to say that the Ancient Greeks placed a much larger emphasis on beauty than the Ancient Chinese. Plato even went so far to say this: "The three wishes of every man: to be healthy, to be rich by honest means, and to be beautiful." It is also evident that beauty was valued in both civilizations, where in cases like Ancient China, it was able to wield great power and in Ancient Greece, outwards beauty reflected inwards beauty. However, like our opening line, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, Ancient Greeks and Ancient Chinese had contrasting preferences with regards to beauty, where red lips, good eyebrows (with respect to each civilization's preference) and luscious locks seems to be the only things the two civilizations can agree on. If we were to look deeper, we could even go so far to say that this could perhaps reveal each civilizations' ethnocentrism towards themselves.

Comparing past beauty standards and the ones we have now, on the surface, we have changed by leaps and bounds. However, just like seasons that come and go, we are pretty sure that our preferences in the future would overlap with those in the past one day. (Like how armpit hair was recently a trend, maybe, one day, the uni-brow would make its return as well.) However, what was interesting was that, man's interest and obsession with beauty remains unchanged. Beauty was a thing back then and beauty is still a thing now (or perhaps even more). We would like to leave you with this food for thought and feel free to leave us a comment as to why is beauty so important to humans. We hoped you enjoyed this post as much as we enjoyed writing it.

P.S. The first video will help you visualize the transformation of women's beauty standards over the years.

P.P.S To make up for the word vomit above, as our way of apologizing, here is a video of some “Kaloskagathos”, which is Ancient Greek for eye candy.

All Hail The Queen, Cleo.

Queen Cleopatra's name in Greek letters Cleopatra VII was the last & only female ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, in which she ruled Egypt at the age of 18 till her death at 39  - c 51 to 30 BCE.  She was one of the very few legendary woman that we talk about even today. She was highly intelligent, had a magnificent lifestyle, was beautiful and charismatic and also had a very interesting sexual life which most believe not only helped her save the throne but also managed to bring peace and prosperity to her nation.

Let's explore her royal practices - have a peek into Cleopatra ’s lifestyle?

A head-on shot of the Bust of Cleopatra at the Royal Ontario Museum


                                                                                    Royal Gastronomy

Cleopatra is well-known  for her exquisite beauty. Have you ever wonder how exactly did she achieve such flawlessness? Not only from her luxurious usage of  cosmetics, but also ancient regimens that involves eating high quality health foods.

She adapt the famous Mediterranean diet, such as extra-virgin olive oil, light cheeses, legumes, grains & herbs.Olives were Cleopatra’s significant part of diet as well as figs, peaches, dates , grapes-both wine and fruit forms and beers in moderation. These superfoods support her overall skin health, consisting of anti-aging properties thus leaving a glowing and porcelain skin that every woman envy.

Queen’s Sweet Tooth:

Dulcis Coccora (sweet honey balls) is a famous ancient Egyptian dessert. It is believed to be Cleopatra’s favourite! This dish was named after her, till today if you visit an authentic Egyptian restaurant, this particular dessert is definitely a “MUST TRY”.

If the Queen of Egypt loved this,you have to try it no matter what!    *P.S - Here's how to make it.

Ancient Egypt Cleopatra's Dulcis Coccora


                                                     Royal Enchantress - A guide to her beauty regime

Queen Cleopatra’s beauty intrigued many for centuries. She is one of the most famous figures of ancient times. How did she turn the heads of so many men?What are her beauty secrets? One of her beauty tips  was to sleep with a facial mask on, particularly a golden mask.

From various facials, treatments, body soaps to baths,Queen Cleopatra is a ultimate vain-pot. She loved her body, taking care of every aspect of it. Besides her attractive physical appearance, she is incredibly charming and intelligent as well which in turn adds up to being irresistible.

It was rumoured that Cleopatra wrote a book of her personal beauty tips & recommendations, such as her legendary homemade masks & treatment recipes. However, this book was lost/ destroyed, and only a number of Cleopatra’s wonderful secrets has been known in modern times.

Her Makeup Stash:

Cleopatra was obsessed with beauty and the idealised version of herself.

Her makeup were only made from natural whole ingredients, without any trace of chemicals.

She used red ochre as a natural pigment, for lipsticks & cheek stains. Kohl is used as eyeliner, in which Cleopatra draw as a winged eyeliner. Egyptians were the first purveyors of the Cat eye liner we all loved (and struggle with) so much.

Besides, she used burnt almonds to paint and fill out her brows. Egyptians were on top of the eyebrow game before it even got started.In addition, henna was also used to naturally dye her fingernails yellow/orange, and oils such as castor, sesame & moringa oil were applied to prevent wrinkles, thus preserving her everlasting youth.

Egyptian Papyrus-wearing makeup

This painting is a great example of some of the makeup Egyptians used


                                                                    Royal Temptress- Her thirst for power

Caesar giving Cleopatra the Throne of Egypt

Most of us believe that sex toys are insane objects that were created recently. However, did you know that Cleopatra used to own a solid gold dildo? Yes, it is rumoured that she got it as a gift from Julius Caesar. Cleopatra is said to have been a sexually active person.

Cleopatra’s infographic (sex toys)

Plutarch an ancient Greek historian said, “her own beauty so we are told was not of that incomparable kind which instantly captivates the beholder, but the charm of her presence was irresistible and there was an attraction in her person and her talk, together with a peculiar force of character which pervaded her every word and action and which laid all who were associated with her, under her spell.” Even though a couple of historians believe that Cleopatra was blessed with a very strong character, many believe that it was her sexuality that aided her growth and enabled her to attain such great power.

There has been many controversies about Cleopatra’s sexuality/sexual life and it is still excessively discussed and debated by historians today. Some assume that she used her sexuality to gain power and get her own way. They stand by it because they believed that she seduced two of Rome’s greatest generals, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony with political intentions and motivations.

Cleopatra and Mark Antony: Portrait of a Couple

It is also rumoured that Cleopatra used to have intimate relationships with over thousand people in less than ten days to become a high priestess thus fulfilling a sacred sexual ritual. She has also been accused of sleeping with her slaves and even killing men after having sex with them. Even though such accusations surfaced about Cleopatra, some historians believe that they were rumours spread by the Romans who wished to portray Cleopatra as a sexual predator or a prostitute to the rest of the world.

Limited tangible evidence and completely opposing views from dramas, poets, movies and historians have left us with a blurry image of Cleopatra’s actual image and also what type of person she really was.

In the midst of all these differing judgements about Cleopatra, we personally felt that there was no reason for Cleopatra to have taken her life after the death of her beloved, Mark Antony if she was sleeping around with many other men.  Some may rebut and claim that she took her life because she lost the political protection and support that Mark Antony was providing her with and that she did not know what to do after his death. We would like to add that she could have always seduced another General with her charisma and moved on with her life.

"The Death of Cleopatra," painted in 1892 by Reginald Arthur.

We hope to believe that Cleopatra was a powerful women who fought for her place in a male dominated era and her healthy lifestyle, beauty, character and seductive attitude were all tools that helped her climb her way to the top.