Actresses Personify the Ancient Chinese Beauty Look to Varying Degrees of Visual Success


Chinese period story fans are have very very high standards when it comes to opinions about onscreen period beauties. There’s modern beautiful which doesn’t always dovetail with period beauty wondrous, and in between plenty of pretty actresses have flailed in both acting and visuals when stepping in the long flowing locks and colorful gowns of the past. C-ent frequently updates it’s subjective ranking of top period beauties, with many having earned the crown and then passing it on to newer arrivals sometimes playing the same character in subsequent remakes. Leading ladies of Louis Cha wuxia novels are especially scrutinized for similarity to the novel description as well as overall aura in period beauty garb. Here’s a visual walk down ancient beauty lane, it’s pretty clear who is too modern to embody the period goddess look while others fairly leap out of the imagination of what ancient beauties would look like.


Michelle Chen


Jiang Xin

Zhang Xin Yi

Tang Yan

Yang Rong

Yang Mi

Jiang Qing

Liu Yu Xin

Ruby Lin

Fan Bing Bing

Annie Liu

Crystal Liu

Yuan Shan Shan

Alyssa Chia

Liu Shi Shi

Mao Xiaotong

Chen Xiao En

Zhao Li Ying

Tong Li Ya

Tong Jie

Ivy Chen

Gao Yuan Yuan

Ariel Lin

Zheng Shuang


Actresses Personify the Ancient Chinese Beauty Look to Varying Degrees of Visual Success — 35 Comments

  1. Liu Yi Fei is still the one-top period beauty imo, she’s the only one who made me go ‘Wow so beautiful…’ immediately when I saw them for the first time in period costumes.

  2. Well, after looking at these ladies twice, I still have no clue as to who does and does not personify ancient Chinese beauty. A little help would be much appreciated as well as “reasons” why this or that person makes the list or not.

    • The chinese standard seems to be as beautiful as a painting. But everything still comes down to personal preferences.

      I find Ariel Lin, Tang Yan, Michelle Chen, Ivy Chen and a few others too modern looking to be classified an ancient beauty. But others may find them perfectly adequate.

      Liu Yi Fei would always be my biggest wow factor, as an ancient drama fan I have always found actress of the 80-90s far superior in ancient garb then their 2000+ counterparts but LYF was one of the few that I was amazed with when she first appeared onscreen back in DGSD.

      Mondernising the ancient costumes did not help and detracts from the beauty of the error.

    • As an overseas Chinese who’s watched the classic period shows growing up and still watching nowadays, I find these ladies beautiful “in the ancient way”:
      1. Gao Yuanyuan
      2. Brigitte Lin (google 林青霞 东方不败 where she played a guy)
      3. Liu Yifei (absolutely Xiao Longnv, but just a bit too baby-faced to be the womanly kind of beautiful, unlike the other two)

      Those who’re “too modern”: Yang Mi, Fan Bingbing.

      And those equally attractive in both: Zhao Wei, Zhao Li Ying (same type of face and what do you know… same surname)

      Separately, an overrated Chinese face = Zhang Ziyi and severely underrated one = Gong Li.

      But obviously everyone mentioned above and in the post are stunning in their own ways.

      • I disagree on Fan Bing Bing cos I found her gorgeous in Princess and Three Musketeers and some of her other ancient stuff.

        Agree on Gong Li, wished she did more ancient stuff back in her heydays. Her costume in Demi Gods Semi Devils movie was devine.

    • The first standard for an ancient Chinese beauty that comes to mind is the “瓜子脸” or “melon seed-shaped face”. The face should be long with a pointed or sharp jaw. Whenever someone mentions “瓜子脸”, I always picture Janine Chang (张钧甯), who isn’t listed here.

      I actually went on Baidu and looked up a list of the standards for an ancient Chinese beauty.
      Here’s my translation:
      1. Smooth and light skin without any blemishes
      2. Bright and charming eyes that can speak
      3. Shiny and smooth thick black hair
      4. Thin and curved eyebrows, “like the leaves of a willow tree”
      5. Seed-shaped face with (peach) pink cheeks
      6. Small red lips with white teeth
      7. Small and tight waist
      8. Thin and long fingers
      9. Small, round feet
      10. Delicate and fragrant body with light skin overall

      • Love your research… Sounds pretty except the feet. I really dont see the attraction in bound feet thus I never understand why women needs mini feet to be considered a beauty.

  3. Wouldn’t this be the modern idea of classic beauty? These women would be too thin in ancient times and the standards of what is pretty and not has changed in the last few millennia.

    • There is a Chinese proverb call “Huan Fei Yan Shou”, which means beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Tong Li Ya once played Zhao Fei Yan of the Han dynasty, who is the Yan in the proverb, and she was known for being very graceful while dancing on the drums because she was so thin.

  4. Personally I’m picking Liu Shi Shi. If you look through her period dramas she fits in so well with almost all of those looks. She looks feminine and she looks like ancient goddes in most of them. When she dresses in those “outfits” she gives me that ancient “aura” – flowy and classic beauty. I also remember watching some entertainment videos and they also said that about LSS. I agree with them on that.

  5. The ones whom I felt looked exceptional back then when I was watching them are Liu Yifei and Tong Liya. I think I didn’t like GYY that much since she played an antagonist, but looking back I think she was really beautiful then too.

  6. Honestly Crystal Liu is still undefeatable even more so now than before in terms of ancient goddess look. She just has that etheral goddess aura that other actresses cannot compare too. Fan Bing Bing is obviously a beauty as well but her looks are really more sultry – not the type that I prefer.

  7. I love Yang Mi’s classic doll like beauty, I just watched her in Chinese Paladin 3 and Legend of the Sword…and I’m always in awe of her beauty. Same goes for Liu Yifei, she was lovely in Chinese Paladin and Condor Heroes

  8. I like the Liu(s) here! Crystal and Annie. I don’t why but when I was watching BBJX, I really like Annie who played Liu Shi Shi older sister.

    • Me too! I also think Annie has the classical, elegant face (and IMO she’s the most beautiful among the BBJX ladies). She looks prettier in ancient garb than in modern style, though.

  9. Liu Yi Fei is highly regarded as top ancient chinese beauty for a reason. She is breathtaking and classic, embodying the chinese beauty standards of beautiful light complexion, delicate features and femininity.

    Liu Shi Shi comes second for me. Everytime I look at her, it’s so easy for me to imagine her as a person from the ancient times.

    Tong Li Ya – Whether her looks capture Han beauty is certainly debatable to some, being of Xibo background – no doubt she would be considered an ancient goddess of some sort had she existed back in those days. Compared to other two, she is most beautiful on and offscreen, ancient or modern.
    Tong Li Ya is one of the few actresses out there that takes my breath away, she’s an ethereal kind of beauty. Total girl crush moment I know .

  10. Where’s Angelababy? I find her absolutely gorgeous in Yun Zhong Ge.

    My top choices:
    1. Carmen Lee (especially as Xiao Longnu)
    2. Gao Yuan Yuan
    3. Liu Yi Fei
    4. Liu Shi Shi
    5. Tong Li Ya

  11. Liu Shi Shi and Tang yan and Liu yi fei definitely- TY’s Zi Xuan is my favourite period drama character- I can remember most vividly the scene where Wallace pulled her outer garment and her face when she turned to look at him. Another memorable scene was when she backed Wallace up saying do you love me or something.

  12. Liu Yifei did aged over the years, but to beat her (younger days) classic beauty is really tough! Even till now I still agree she is the most beautiful chinese girl on earth, even Liu Shishi’s identical face is still not comparable. In terms of acting, I find her really good at that too although there are many haters.
    1. Liu Yifei
    2. Ariel Lin
    3. Tong Liya
    4. Gao Yuan Yuan
    5. Ruby Lin (younger days as well, although she didn’t aged that quick)
    6. Alyssa Chia
    7. Dong Jie
    8. Zhou Dongyu (though she’s not listed above)

  13. Liu Yi Fei (Crystal Liu) definitely slays all other woman in period beauties category especially in her younger years. Even though she is almost in her 30s, she is still baby-faced (Her mom is baby-faced too no wonder why). Her classic Chinese beauty can represent Asia as a whole.

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