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Tanning salons give colour to Chinese yuppies

Written by: Staff

SHANGHAI, Sep 11 (Reuters) Chinese office manager Ye Lu likes working up a sweat -- not in the gym, but in a tanning salon.

''Tanned skin looks great on me and I like to hear my friends saying how fresh and healthy I look,'' said Ye, a young Chinese white collar worker, as he walked out of a tanning room in downtown Shanghai, perspiration glistening on his forehead.

Ye hits the tanning beds twice a week, despite the objections of his wife, who still favours a traditional pale complexion.

Next door to Ye's salon, Zhang Xinyu sits at the reception desk of a skin-whitening beauty salon, looking quietly and uncomprehendingly at the dark-hued Chinese customers coming and going from the neighbouring tanning parlor.

''Aesthetically and culturally, I think light skin is more appealing for Asian people because it looks pure and noble,'' Zhang said, justifying the appeal of the services her spa offers.

''But I suppose it's up to people to make their own choices,'' she sighed.

For centuries, Chinese people have looked down on those with dark complexions, viewing their skin colour as that of peasants labouring in fields under the hot sun or manual workers.

Men with darker-coloured skin were assumed to be socially inferior, working as farmers and builders from dawn-to-dusk in the open air, as opposed to scholars and government officials cosseted in their offices.

Those with lighter skin, by contrast, were seen as better educated and wealthier.

But that is now changing in China, especially in its richest and most sophisticated city of Shanghai, where having a nice tan is increasingly seen not as a sign of peasantry but rather as a status symbol.

The recent boom in tanning salons in China is starting to shake deep-rooted traditions about skin tone, though it still seems a long way from denting the multi-million dollar market in skin whitening creams.


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