CHINESE EARS

Beijing, 17 November 2013

When I was young, sticking-out ears were considered ugly and the sign of probable dumbness. This is no doubt why, for instance, Mad Magazine’s mascot, Alfred E. Neumann, has ears which stick out

MAD-Alfred_E._Neumann

and why two of the the Pieds Nickelés, the grubby lumpenproletariat heroes of a French cartoon series which was still quite popular when I was young, also had had ears which stuck out.

Pieds Nickeles

Add to this the general connection between boxers (“thick between the ears”) and prominent cauliflower ears, for instance this boxer from 1914

boxer Fred Welsh 1914

or this one from Ancient Greece some time in the first centuries BC

boxer ancient greek

and the reader can appreciate that prominent ears were not associated with the finer things of life.

This bad press for protruding ears was bad news for me. As a youngster, my ears had an unfortunate tendency to jut out, which led my mother from time to time to take my chin in her hand, pass an eye over my ears, and talk meditatively about having them pinned back. As you can appreciate, this early threat of ending up under the surgical knife has made me remember these episodes quite keenly and to be generally sensitive to the positioning of people’s ears on their heads. Prominent ears were bad enough for boys. They were even more problematic for girls. There was in my youth a certain tolerance for clumsy, oafish boys – that was par for the course – but girls were meant to be dainty and refined. So sticking-out ears on a girl was a disaster. Luckily my wife’s ears were perfectly aligned to her head, but she remembers there being general talk in her youth about using plasters to “train” protruding ears back against the head (rather as one trains flowers in the garden to grow in a certain direction by tying them to sticks).

All this being said, I never actually met a girl – or boy, for that matter – who had their ears pinned back (or who admitted to it). Nevertheless, it is a fact that as I grew up (and mercifully my ears repositioned themselves correctly against my head) I remember no-one of my generation with protruding ears. Somehow, sticking-out ears disappeared, or at least diminished.

So readers will understand that it was with some astonishment that I and my wife discovered that protruding – sometimes very protruding – ears are quite common in China, especially, so it seems to me, among women. Here is a typical example of what I mean: a young woman photographed at an automobile show, where women are meant to sell cars by being pretty, with obviously protruding ears.

chinese ears-1

I cannot imagine any automobile house in Europe hiring a woman with such prominent ears to sell its cars.

And here is a picture of an air hostess, a job which in China still connotes prettiness and femininity. I surreptitiously took this photo on a recent flight while the young lady wasn’t looking.

ears on plane 001

I cannot imagine an air hostess 10-15 years ago in Europe (when good looks were still considered a must for air hostesses) ever having ears sticking out like that.

But perhaps I’m showing a cultural arrogance here, thinking it’s our way or no way. Perhaps the Chinese don’t attribute the same negative connotations to protruding ears that we do in Europe. In a completely unscientific survey, I studied photos of some of the more glamorous Chinese women – actresses, singers and suchlike – to test the following theory: if the Chinese do not think protruding ears are a big deal, then at least some of these women will have ears that stick out. I believe that the following photos prove my theory correct:

The actress Zhang Ziyi

actress Zhang Ziyi

The actress Yang Mi

actress Yang Mi

The actress Lin Chiling

actress Lin Chiling

Their ears don’t stick out as much as some women’s ears we’ve seen here, but in my non-professional opinion they stick out more than they would on equivalent European (and American) glamorous women.

PS: After I published this post, a reader kindly sent me a series of links to videos and a photo, which show Asian girls with very prominent ears.  The links are in the comment below. From these, I feel that protruding ears are an issue not just with Chinese girls but with East/South-East Asian girls in general.  Is there a genetic component to all this, I wonder?

______________

Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neumann: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/21/Alfred_E._Neumann.jpg/460px-Alfred_E._Neumann.jpg [in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_E._Neuman%5D
Pieds Nickelés: http://www.bdoubliees.com/trio/sfig1/pn3.jpg [in http://www.bdoubliees.com/trio/series5/piedsnickeles.htm%5D
Boxer Fred Welsh 1914: http://www.shorpy.com/files/images/17114u.preview.jpg [in http://www.shorpy.com/node/2585%5D
Ancient Greek boxer: http://cultureweekend.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/DSC_0331-540×358.jpg [in http://cultureweekend.com/ciao-bella-italy-nyc/%5D 350 BC-50 BC
Chinese ears: http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/2012-Beijing-Auto-Show-Ears.jpg [in http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/girls-of-the-2012-beijing-auto-show-im-all-ears/%5D
Air hostess: my photo
Actress Zhang Ziyi: http://images6.alphacoders.com/315/315260.jpg [in http://wall.alphacoders.com/big.php?i=315260%5D
Actress Yang Mi: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-o0WNzbJ9JWA/T7W-6rzqm5I/AAAAAAAAHkE/9MmBmWdgZck/s1600/1%2BYang%2BMi%2BRust%2Band%2BBone%2BCannes%2B001.jpg [in http://hong-kong-actresses.blogspot.com/2012/05/yang-mi-and-hao-lei-cannes-red-carpet.html%5D
Actress Lin Chiling: http://chinesemov.com/images/actors2/Lin-Chi-Ling-2.jpg [in http://chinesemov.com/actors/Lin%20Chi-Ling.html%5D

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Abellio

I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

3 thoughts on “CHINESE EARS”

    1. Thanks so much! I was indeed having trouble finding photos of Chinese girls with ears which stick out. Thanks for giving me – and other readers – these links.

      Like

      1. Most of the links I sent you are about Japanese, Korean and Indonesian girls.

        Here’s some more, Indonesian actress Happy Salma who has only one protruding ear http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4RLWQZfRfA

        Indonesian singer Nina Tamam : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbuoYbI7Ujo

        Indonesian singer Nafa and others: see photos

        In the USA many people are also born with protruding ears, but nowadays they all run to a plastic surgeon, while Asians proudly show their ears.

        Cheers,

        Thierry

        Like

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