What makes a person beautiful?
When you have confidence in your own appearance, coupled with a healthy body and a kind and joyful heart, then, you are a beautiful person
In the past, when an elder shakes his head and comments "how the time has changed!" he refers the changes that were taken places in the past ten years – a generation of time away.
However, in this 21st century, I believe, just like many people would, we are experiencing the fast changing world in every single day. Our society has changed and so does our thought, and people are different now. In this information explosion era, our society is in sync with what is happening elsewhere around the globe. Especially it is in the fashion world. Whatever is popular in one country, you can be sure to find copycats popped out in our streets, or in street corners! Likewise, when yesterday's fashion is faded away, it disappears from our eye sights as well.
The wealth in our society is distributed in so called the "M-Shape", that is, the rich people is getting richer and the poor people is getting poorer while the majority of people is in the middle and their size is shrinking. But, it doesn't matter. People want to be pretty – that is the human nature and it is an unspoken truth. There was a news article, reporting someone spent two million dollars in three month searching for beauty formula; a girl was on plain noodle diet for two and half years to save enough money to pay for her debts accumulated after thirty-seven plastic surgeries. Likewise, equally ridiculous is someone putting up huge credit card debts just for the sake of having intended plastic surgeries. (ref. 1) People never satisfy with his/her own appearance, even though they are already a beauty in everybody's eyes. They want to "improve their beauty" further. That is unbelievable. No wonder the clinics for plastic surgery are mushroomed everywhere. Ordinary medical surgeons quit their medical practices and join the lucrative plastic surgery bandwagons. Plastic surgery becomes a fashion; it is already deeply rooted into young girl's mind.
Then, how are we going to define what is "beautify"?
What Is the "Standard" for Beauty?
Being "beautiful" or "ugly" is very subjective in the eyes of beholders. In reality, it should be "objectively" to look at. Beauty is embedded in people's mind or attached to certain things or events. It is part of nature or people's instincts and it has nothing to do with how people feel. Everybody has a judgment ruler in his/her mind to call out something is beautiful or not. And this ruler for beauty always varies with time. Therefore, there is no fixed definition to define 'what is beauty'. Even Aristotélēs or Plato would give different opinions. People in ancient Greece analyzed human body and theorized that the beauty of a human body follows a relatively fixed proportion – in general, the ratio between one's head dimension to his body length should be somewhere between one to six. Later on, this ratio was modified to one to seven. They argued, once you have achieved that magic ratio, then you are automatically considered as a beauty. This ratio is what was called the "golden ratio" or the "golden rule".
This magic number was feverishly pursued and accepted by many artists during the Renaissance Period. For instance, Da Vinci actually stole many corpses and measured dimensions from various human body parts. He concluded that, indeed, many our body parts do exhibit a ratio of 1.618. Even though we got this magic number from many observations, we still do not have any idea why this is the case. This number can also be found in many common objects in nature. Therefore, people regard this magic ratio is simply a gift from our all Mighty. In other word, our God create this special ratio for us. Many artists used this particular ratio to create their works in paintings, scriptures, buildings and even in their music. They closely watch and follow this golden rule of 1.618. (ref. 2)
Vitruvius was an artist in Rome, born in the first century BC. (Marcus Vitruvius Pollio is best known as the author of the multi-volume work De Architectura). He summarized all research works in ancient Greece on human body dimensions into a book called "Somaesthetics". However, the rise of Christian made it a taboo to talk about human body for over one thousand years. Consequently, Vitruvius's book was put away and was kept away for people to read during all those years. It was until 1400AD Da Vinci picked up Vitruvius work and coupled it with various dimensions derived from the measurements of a human body he drew a clear and precise human body – the "Ratio Dimension of a Human Body".
The drawing represents a naked man with stretched arms touching the borders of a rectangular frame and his legs spread apart touching the rim of a circle. In this diagram, Da Vinci used many lines on the body to illustrate the Golden Rule – the width of shoulder; the distance between clavicle and the line passing nipples; the length between shoulder to elbow and from elbow to wrist; the distance ratio between perineum to the knee and from the knee to the sole of the foot. Using dimensional human body, Da Vinci hoped to establish that human body could be fitted into a rectangular and a circle. This is similar to Chinese vision of our universe being circular and our earth can be fitted into a square. (ref. 3)
In their recent studies, many scholars realized that Da Vinci has closely followed this Golden Rule on many of his art works in modeling the human figures. In the famous Mona Lisa painting, we can easily find this rule has been applied to many places. For instance, the size of this painting framework followed this rule. Moreover, the face of Mona Lisa, its angular position and its location in the painting, as well as her body size all arranged according to this specific ratio. This is just one of the proofs that Da Vinci applied golden rule in his art work.
A Healthy Body Means a Gorgeous Figure
Measurements on beautiful ladies or handsome gentlemen around the world reveal a simple fact – their facial dimensions and their body parts follow this Golden Rule. Studies also show an interesting finding that men will be subconsciously attracted by girls having waist to hip ratio of 1.618, e.g., followed the Golden Rule. Of course, there are some British researchers do not believe this conclusion. They used female Anorexia patients as their evidence to illustrate that the body of those patients satisfy the Golden Rule but they are so thin and skinny and they are far from being "pretty" or "gorgeous"!
Research found out another real eye-catcher Golden Rule that can attract men in general – the "Body Mass Index, BMI". BMI is calculated as the body weight (in kilograms) divided by the squared body height (in meters). For men, the most attractive female is the one who has BMI 20. BMI has been used by the medical community to calculate if someone has ideal body weight. Researchers have correlated this magic number to female's reproduction ability and her health in general. This magic number can get men excited. This research result was published in the well known medical journal, the Lancet. The researchers emphasized that "A healthy female is always the most attractive one". (ref. 4 & 5)
Definition Differences between the East and the West on Beauty
Throughout human history, we noticed that the definition of beauty has changed repeatedly from time to time. For a given time, people's facial features and body sizes would be different as compared to their past. The change is the result of combined metamorphous of human's conscience and it is unique only for that period of time. In many western art museums, we can see many classic paintings on women. These ladies all had relative mature and full size body, including the pear shape body, which is considered ugly according to our standard now. On the other hand, ancient Chinese fair ladies had clear eyes and white teeth, soft buttery skin and small bones, and relatively small cute body. This is quite different to the western standard for a fair lady. That is why people in the east cannot quite appreciate the winner selected in a western beauty pageant. To them, the winner is not beautiful at all. Likewise, the beautiful girl from the east selected by western judges will be different as if she is judged by eastern judges.
The ten most beautiful ladies in Chinese history were Xi Shi (西施), Diau Charn (貂蟬), Wang Zhao Jun (王昭君), Yang Gui Fei (楊貴妃), Zhen Fei (珍妃), Wang Bao Chuan (王寶釧), Cho Wen Jun (卓文君), Zhao Fei Yan (趙飛燕), Wen Cheng Gong Zhu (文成公主), Tsai Wen Gi (蔡文姬). Some of them had full figure and some of them were relatively skinny.
In China's long history, the standards that defined a beautiful lady have been modified in different dynasties according to the corresponding social environments. During the Sui-Tang dynasties, China was very prosperous. They had mighty army and rich cultures. They adapted open diplomacy to all nations around the world. And, they imposed fewer restrictions to their fellow countrywomen. Therefore, women in that period of time tended to be in full figures and larger in size. Girls in Tang Dynasty were considered beautiful if they were somewhat over-weight with raised hairdo. They were considered gorgeous and were the sexiest ladies in all Chinese dynasties. People admired girls having broad forehead, round face, full figure with a healthy body.
After Tang dynasty, women in Song dynasty abandoned heavy makeup and fuller sizes and moved toward light and conservative appearance. People preferred soft and seemingly weak girls, i.e. girls having slender shoulder, flat chest, thin waist and small feet. The worst kind of foot we think now was what they praised as the most beautiful foot – the popular three-inch long golden foot. From Song dynasty till the formation of modern day China, women young and old, rich or poor, all wanted to adapt this beauty standard. In the process of achieving three inches long foot, they had to physically suffer the painful torture in jamming foot bones into only three-inch long. At the end of the Chin dynasty, people in every level of the society admired girls like "Lin Dai Yu" – the girl having poor health, the beauty of sickly pale appearance.
By the time it was the Republic of China, western influences began to flood all nations in the east. People began to abandon the idea that small foot was pretty and the beauty standards in the west are shared by women in the east. In this 21st century, there are no differences in beauty standards for all girls around the world. Girls in the east mimic similar hairdo, haircut styles, and cloth fashions, as western girls would do. Some girls even surgically operate on their eyelids to make them in double layers, i.e. resembling a western girl's eye lids; or raise and enlarge their nose; trim their checks; having breast implants; and wrinkle removal. The reality is, however, for an eastern girl she should have single layer eyelid; smaller nose; round face and relatively flat chest. We have noticed that fashion models in Paris, if they are from the east, they all posses the characteristics of an eastern girl. People in the west do appreciate girls from east having those characters unique only to the easterners. But sadly, girls in the east do not share the same view. (ref. 6 & 7)
The Danger of Getting a Thinner Body Has Awaken the World
In recent years, international fashion models are uniformly thin figures, fitted for size 'zero'. Moreover, the news media dramatize the glory of being thin; girls around the world are under their spell and blindly follow Paris' fashion wanting to be skinny. Therefore, we see girls wanting their faces in small shapes, called "palm face", i.e. no bigger than the size of a palm. And, their body size is skinny, i.e. under weight. Fact of the matter is our flesh or muscle (or body fat) and our skeleton must maintain certain proportion. When your body is so thin that your clavicles are clearly visible and your limbs and hips are bony, but, you have an out of proportion breast size. That body shape is totally abnormal and is un-natural. To achieve that unnatural shape, girls have to go through strict diet, tightening their waist line, or even having liposuction to surgically remove fat from the body.
These procedures will all cause serious damages to the body. Last year, three 'size zero' models from the South Africa lost their lives because of their pursuing of 'thin body'. This incident finally caught the attention around the world. Early this October, Mr. Miuccia Prada personally picked out a model having size 34 wearing size 8 in his New Fashion Show as his spokesperson to rally against "Skinny Body". Hopefully, his action could provide the leadership role and wake up the fashion world in Paris -- no more bony models walking on those fashion runways. Here is model Lara Stone, twenty three years of age and wearing size 8 clothes. Her size is about double as compared to those skinny girls wearing size zero clothes. (ref. 8)
Due to the promotion through the news media, the concept of "fashion equals beauty" is in every girl's mind. One unintentional byproduct from this slogan has greatly impacted on the high class fashion industry – girls who want to follow the fashion trend have to be on diet. I have seen so many girls who are really tiny already and their bony body is really obvious, but, they continue to refuse eating food for fear of putting on extra pounds! The thought to reduce body fat has deeply grasped their minds and it dangerously threatens their psychological well being. They would feel guilty if they eat anything! The irresistible desire of dieting has been planted in people's mind and becomes part of their unconsciousness. This, however, is very unhealthy and is sickening. The notion that thin is beauty has devastating women's health in general. Following this trend to satisfy hungry desires, many diet pills, diet dishes, or diet tea are flooded in the market. Customers blindly take those dieting stuffs without considering the consequences, just like a moth plunges into burning flame without hesitation of being killed by the flame.
Be Responsible to Your Own Appearance
Our physical appearance, before we are thirty, is given to us by our parents. After that, it is your own doing. President Lincoln of the United States once said, "After you are forty years old, you are responsible to your appearance". There is an old saying, "your mind is reflected on your face". It is true that pretty face from birth is important. But, according to the law of karma, what you have at birth is a continuation of your previous lives. And, it is more important to cultivate your mind not only for your present life but also for the future life to come.
The body shape and appearance you have are influenced by your inherited genes from your parents and your present days' diets, exercises and daily habits in this life. Even your state of mind can modify your body as well. For instance, a beautiful person who is always unhappy and depressed will give weary impression to people. On the other hand, an ugly but optimistic and cheerful person will give people a friendly and easy get along feeling. Don't you agree? Your parents gave you a face but you create and modify it into a different one. Faces from the kindergarteners or grammar school kids are happy and naïve. But, thirty or forty years later, their faces will be quite different. What is happening? Therefore, we must take the responsibility to the changes that take place in our appearance. You cannot say it is entirely your parent's fault that makes what you are today. You have no one but yourself to blame.
Being pretty or ugly is only our external appearance, but being graceful or having charming character is derived from one's inner beauty. Telling something or someone is beautiful and/or ugly comes from the relative comparison and it is one's subjective judgment. The object you are commenting will not change by itself, your mind will make the difference. The problem is we can only make the judgment call based on what we can see, i.e. only the surface value, and we are easily fail to realize or understand what is hidden beneath the skin.
We cannot change the fact – beautiful or otherwise, we could, however, improve our gracefulness and charming character by cultivating our mind. Inner beauty is far more important than the outer appearance, and it is ageless! We have seen many people showing their graceful and charming character even in their golden ages. For instance, Sister Theresa, Princesses Grace Kelly, Ms Audrey Hepburn who helped poverty stricken kids in Africa in her old ages, our former First lady Madam Chiang KaiShek (Ms Song May-Ling), Master Zen Yen (from Tzu-Chi Org.), Ms Shao Ziao Ling, and our former Vice President Ms. Lu, who was teased by the news media saying she was once a ugly duckling. I think she is a very charming and attractive lady now.
There is a saying in the advertisement, "being natural is beautiful'. But, it does not last long – we have "artificial beauty" now. Young girls openly and un-bashfully talk about the plastic surgery for the beauty sake. They want copycat movie star's face or famous model's figure. It is only the outside appearance that they care about. Little do they know that all outer appearance will disappear soon enough. Modern day women over thirty are called "ripen lady" and those over forty are "middle age beauty". Moreover, I have seen several mothers who had double eyelid surgery but their children's eyelid remained to be single. The plastic surgery on mother's eyelids did not change anything on her child, except the mother and the child no longer look alike. The plastic surgery changes only surface appearance, not the DNA or the genes. Our outside appearance will be weathered as time goes on and getting old. What we should do is to cultivate our inner beauty so that we will be still graceful and charming in our old ages.
We have two eyes as given to us by all Mighty. He wants us to use our eyes to see everything, more than to make judgment on beauty. For every living thing on this earth, there are size differences, strength differences and beauty differences. And, the earth is so colorful just because we are so much different to each other. We come to this most beautiful planet in our solar system, the earth, to learn and to be educated. Other living things on earth, other animals or plants or fishes or insects, they could care less how their fellow specie looks like. Human being is one exception, they do. Fact of the matter is, we should pay no attention to the desire in pursuing beauty. If we are healthy, that is the most important thing we should care about.
We need to cultivate our inner beauty and let go our outside appearance. Superficial appearance will be weathered and faded away but not the inner beauty, it will last for the life time and beyond. I see people struggle to think they need certain plastic surgery to modify their face shape, to enlarge or to shrink their breast size, etc. Instead, we should have confidence on what we already have. When you have a healthy body and an open and happy mind, you are the most beautiful person in the world!
- United News web site 2007/10/15
- “Golden Ratio”, Yuan-Liu Publish Company 2004
- Since Monthly (On Vitruvius) June 2006
- United News web site, Reporter Mr. Chu, S.M. 2007/10/02