There’s no doubt that beauty standards change with the times–just compare the “beauties” from Renaissance paintings to any fashion magazine today. As “beauty” is no more set in stone than culture, it’s hardly surprising that there have been changes over the years. But it’s easy to forget that our contemporary standards haven’t always existed–and even easier to be bewildered by old photos. Nothing emphasizes this difference as much as the recent appearance of photos comparing actors from contemporary Chinese TV dramas and photos of their actual historical counterparts.

Check out this video by Off the Great Wall, a YouTube channel run by two Asian Americans, to get a glimpse of Chinese royalty on TV and in reality.


Even if you’ve only see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you probably have some kind of image of what traditional Chinese royalty looked like. Though hairstyle, clothes, and makeup might have varied greatly, in the TV shows and movies, these women and men are almost always portrayed as being stunning specimens of humanity. While beauty standards across the world vary by culture, we imagine there are plenty of people who think these actors are the pinnacle of beauty–and probably assume that their historical counterparts were equally jaw-dropping. However, this video should go a long way in dispelling that assumption.

While there’s obviously a big difference between what we see on-screen now and the reality of the past, we’re not so sure that should be a surprise. After all, there are a lot of factors not being taken into consideration–for one thing, a lot of these photos look like they were taken of people later in life. If you compared an older person to a photo of them in their youth, you’d probably think the photo was more “beautiful,” but a large part of that is the result of society putting a greater value (at least in terms of beauty) on youth. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with valuing youth–but it does make the comparisons seem unfair, if you ask us. After all, you could make another video with the same results comparing photos of Queen Elizabeth today to those of the matriarch in her youth!


Another aspect to consider is the general difference in beauty standards. While we might not find all the people in these old photos “beautiful,” we have to wonder if people back then might have the same reaction to the popular actresses and actors in the video. And besides, it’s not like the people in the old photos are hideous even by contemporary standards! We’re having a hard time feeling bad for the Emperor, to be honest.

However, as Dan says at the end of the video, until we actually saw the old photos, our perception was exactly what we’d seen in the movies! So, at least on that point, we can understand why people would be surprised. If nothing else, this is a good reminder that not everything is what you might think!

And, honestly, we bet that if you did these men and women up in a contemporary style, they’d look just as hot as most of us. That’s the power of makeup after all!

Source: YouTube (Off the Great Wall), Vision
Images: YouTube (Off the Great Wall)