The 'discreet eroticism' of Chinese women

Canton / Guangzhou, January–February 1930

Colin Ross 'explains' the youthful appearance of Chinese women through a mixture of nature and nurture.

When a Chinese friend introduces Ross to his mother-in-law, Ross is struck by the woman’s ageless beauty. He finds explanations for Chinese women’s generally youthful, slender appearance both in their genetic makeup (endowing them with slender hips) and in custom, or rather, costume. From childhood on, girls are dressed in tight jackets, Ross asserts, which keeps their breasts small “but firm”.

The latter remark is the prelude to some musing about the 'discreet eroticism' of Chinese women, in contrast to the allegedly more obvious charms of her European and American counterparts. This is in keeping with the dreamy tone of this chinoiserie as a whole, which concludes with a wistful, rather than troubled statement of otherness: “This China is indeed a strange land, populated by strange people.”

Shortly before that Ross even floats the Orientalist male fantasy that Chinese women owe their smooth faces to a lack of emotional and mental exertion. But, ever surprising in the shading of his racial imputations, he rejects that theory for the present case. His friend’s mother-in-law is a practising physician.

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Die ewig junge Chinesin. Berliner Morgenpost. Nr. 162. 1931 Jul 9; [p. 3].

Topic: Race
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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