Are Chinese Kids REALLY More Cute?

I’m sorry this text is not a picture of a cute Chinese baby.

That’ll come later. For now, I want to ask why an American like myself saw and took a bunch of pictures of cute Chinese children. Are Chinese kids really more cute than their Caucasian counterparts (that I see more often)? (By the way, please don’t try to take this post as creepy. That’s not why I’m here.)


The reasons why I have so many pictures of cute Chinese children can be broken into three categories: my bias (reasons 1, 5 and 2-ish), physical characteristics of Chinese children (reasons 2 and 3), and Chinese cultural attitudes w.r.t. children (reason 4).

1. Self-fulfilling Prophecy!

I had heard the cute Chinese child stereotype, so I definitely had my camera ready whenever I saw someone under 4′ 2″. If I went around America looking for cute kids, I bet I’d find a bunch here too.

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This picture shows my constant state of readiness. Camera in hand. On the lookout for cute shit. Ah! Kid jumping! *Snap* [Suzhou Gardens, Suzhou, China]

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I love how the yellows and greens match from plant to kid. [Pinyao, China] 


2. Bigger Pupils and Eyes

Bigger Pupils: This academic article (oooohhhhh) states that cuter kids have “large eyes and pupils”. This could make sense for Chinese babies given that their rate of dark eyes is greater than in white populations [source] (not to mention the white skin dark eye contrast). This means that the line between pupil and iris is harder to define, leading to more “large pupiled” babies.

Bigger Eyes: This may seem counterintuitive to people like myself who have schooled with the “Asian squinty eyes” stereotype. In fact, this stereotype actually enhances the “big-eyed Chinese child” phenomenon. Like most stereotypes, the “slanted eye” tag is based on truth — an upper eye fold (called the epicanthic fold) is more prevalent in Asia. We are used to seeing this in Chinese adults, labeling their eyes as “small”. Children’s eyes are 75% of their full size [source], but their face is still pretty small (babies have a face-to-cranium ratio of 1:8 while adults have a ratio of 1:2.5 [source]). Therefore children’s eyes are relatively larger w.r.t. their face than they are as adults. This relative eye bigness in Chinese children might affect how often we see their eyes as “big” (as compared to “small” in Chinese adults). A compounding (and somewhat counter-logical to the last point) factor is that the epicanthic fold is harder to see (it’s 75% of its size), so we don’t judge the eyes in the “Chinese adult small” category.

Puss in Boots is a prototypical example of big pupils, BIG cute.

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Those eyes are pure black. Pupil is black. Iris is black. Pupil gets confused with iris. Pupil is perceived as bigger than it actually is. Cuteness up. Viewers win. [Suzhou Gardens, Suzhou, China]

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Again, pupil-iris conflation ftw. Phone and hand position don’t hurt. [Fenyang, China]

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Bigger eyes w.r.t. face means we don’t see them as “Asian small”, means cuter. Epicanthal folds smaller means we don’t see eyes as “Asian small”, means cuter. [Suzhou, China]


Smaller Noses

The other genetic factor at play here is smaller noses. That same academic article (above) claims that cuter kids are those with “short and narrow features” (using a small nose as indicative of small babyness). Chinese people thought I (and other westerners) were much more attractive because of our 大鼻子 (da bi zi), big noses [Data4Fun]. They said, “Ahhhhh, us Chinese don’t have big noses! We love your big nose!” It’s the classic “want what you don’t have” syndrome (light-skinned people getting fake tans, darker-skinned people wanting fairer skin). For the Chinese, this creates big nose jealousy later in life, but increases cuteness as a baby.

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The pain! Oh, the pain! [Pinyao, China]


Cuter Clothes

Moving away from genetics to culture. Did you see that panda coat two pictures above? So damn cute. The Chinese style of cute works so well on kids.

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Puffball of color. [Fenyang, China]

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Animal leash. Beach hat. Some fly J’s. [Pinyao, China]

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Face isn’t even needed. [Dongguan, China]


Pure Exoticism

The final reason is that Chinese kids are different than American kids. Just like the pull of Imperial Adventures in a movie like Indiana Jones, so too are my eyes pulled by the “other” inherent in Chinese kids (and unavailable to my nephew).

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I don’t know why they are arranging their shoes in a line, but they’re doing it together and I like that. [Pinyao, China]


Until Next Time

Well, I hope I’ve both: 1)  Argued for why Americans take lots of pictures of cute Chinese kids AND 2) Not been racist. Hope you enjoyed this more “source-driven” post (and if nothing else, the cute kids). The part of this post that most excites me personally is the whole “dressing up your kids” thing. Ima have kids. And ima make ’em look funny. And ima post it on the internet. See you then!

– Rhys

American Culture, Chinese Style

Yo! Welcome to the 3rd post in Photo Series 2: Understanding ChinaToday, we’re going to look at how different parts of American (and I do mean specifically American, not Western) culture have been translated in China. And we’re going to keep it light, i.e. we’re not going to talk about how capitalism/progress has affected China. That’s later. Translation happens in five ways: exaggeration, idolization, “Yeah, that was a couple decades ago.”, poor execution, and “This could only be China.”

Cool? Cool.


Exaggeration

America is ridiculous (caricature of itself?). China emulates. But sometimes China overshoots the “American-ness”. It’s more understandable when China does so (“you don’t know me!”), but it’s also more funny (for reasons I don’t quite understand).

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The caption says “Don’t be a vegetarian.” 2 brats, 2 patties, 2 buns. 0 lettuce, 0 tomatoes, 0 pickles. Reminds me of KFC’s Double Down. [Suzhou, China]

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“To punish and enslave.” Word. Transformers 4 made $320 million in China and only $240 in America. Multiply that by a PPP of 2.5 and you have a movie that made 3.33x as much in China. That (and this car) is (are) devotion. [Taiyuan, China]


Idolization

Chinese people are all kinds of respectful to their guests. Foreigners are guests. When China is constantly “looking up” to America, an idolization complex begins to occur. Strange example below:

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In a small-large town-city (a good combo to describe Chinese urbanity btw), a jewelry store manager was offering a single US dollar in a lottery giveaway. THE CROWD WAS MASSIVE. I tried to get a good picture that captured the dollar and the crowd but crowds are big and dollars are small and after 15 pictures it was awkward. [Kaiping, China]


“Yeah, That Was A Couple Decades Ago.”

This phenomenon is a pretty well known developed-developing country interaction. For various reasons (geographical distance, decreased cost/desire of old items, blah), American pop culture 25 years ago is found in greater numbers than modern American pop culture. Or maybe China is just retro.

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Kenny Rogers, Backstreet Boys, Usher. All the jams. All in one place. [Hong Kong, China]


Poor Execution

Sometimes though, the love is there. And it’s modern. And it’s not an exaggeration. But ya know, the execution just doesn’t quite get there. Exaggeration is one step too far. This is one step to the side.

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This was in the Chinese version of Disneyland. The “M”, “m” and “i” are still correct I guess… [Shenzhen, China]

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Same theme park as above. High Spongebob is hiiiiggghhhh. The kids love it! [Shenzhen, China]

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A student’s shirt at my school. uu, ee, ee. Jew-stin, buy-ee-beer. I feel like if I was making a shirt, I’d make sure I was spelling everything correctly. [Fenyang, China]

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Basketball! Lakers! Red Bull! Games! It’s got all the right pieces but all the wrong vibes. [Chengdu, China]


This Could Only Be China

These conversions are China-specific. i.e. I never saw this type of conversion in Nepal/India and would be surprised to see it outside of China.

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Green Tea DQ. Unrelated: my foot looks tiny. [Xian, China]

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Pizza Hut pizza. Crust has shrimp and scallops. Delicious? Of course. [Xian, China]

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Creepy Mickey characters populate the family-filled old streets in China. China is particularly comfortable with pushing the non-historical into the historical. Skyscrapers surround temples in Beijing because the people need space to live. Animated characters tromp the cobbled pathways of ancient districts in Xian because the kids need to enjoy the vacation too. [Chengdu, China]


Until Next Time

You know what’s crazy? All of the Chinese in my town thought that Americans all used MSN. M. S. N. I don’t know a single American who uses (or even used) MSN. This is the cross-cultural transmission phenomenon. I don’t know how they came to believe this social media fact, nor do I know how they came to believe that the Spongebob character above should look like he just took a bong rip. But somehow in these ideas were produced in China. It’s worth noting that China is more likely to have these mutations as a result of state-sponsored internet censorship that lessens their connection with America/West/Rest. No Google, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Wikipedia, no Youtube. Hell, they don’t even have Bing! In any case, I wish I knew/investigated more about which ideas are more likely to be disfigured/exaggerated/idolized.

Finally, I’d also love to see a Chinese-written “Chinese Culture, American-Style”. The biggest surprise for me was how little rice the Chinese ate. I thought, China –> rice. In fact, only southern China eats rice. Northern China eats primarily noodles. I probably ate rice less than 10 times (out of 6 x 30 x 3 = 540 meals) in northern China.

Hope you enjoyed my first article about the intersection between Chinese and American cultures. There’s a funny translation post coming soon, in addition to one about capitalistic progress. See ya then!

– Rhys!