chapter  9
14 Pages

Women’s consumption of cosmetic products in China

Between logistics, conflict and symbolism
WithDominique Desjeux, Yang Xiao Min

The cosmetics market was internationalized from Europe in the nineteenth century. American historian Geoffrey Jones recalls in his pioneering book Beauty Imagined that, ever since the nineteenth century, the two great cities for the world of beauty have been Paris and New York. The symbolic and social dimensions of beauty cannot emerge until a system of public and private logistics, and material objects, is put in place in the home. Beauty is related to the life cycle and generation effects. During childhood and primary school makeup for Chinese urban middle-class girls tends to be forbidden, except for school shows. Traditional Chinese culture has continued to live underground despite the Cultural Revolution. The beauty of the body in China is expressed through the search for harmony between the body and its natural and social ecosystem. Women’s bodies represent an ‘asset’ that can devalue quite quickly with age, from the point of view of some Chinese men, especially the richest.