Nudity in art and nude modeling were introduced into China almost one century ago. When famed Chinese painter Liu Haisu became the first to initiate a figure drawing course at a Shanghai art school in 1917, he immediately triggered public uproar and widespread controversy in regards to nude modeling.
Since then, China has become much more open to nude modeling, especially when we think back on the 1928 slashing of a nude model by her father for posing for internationally renowned Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan who took the country’s first artistic nude shot .
However, even though the Chinese have gotten more at ease with the idea of modeling in the nude since 1928, it still remains quite the controversial career path to take in China. Every time some nude picture appears, the public nudity debate gets stirred up again and sometimes violence may even ensue. Some think that it’s shameful and the models just get naked for the so-called sake of art to make easy-money and gain overnight fame, whereas others believe it is truly a form of art and society should show some more respect and tolerance for this venerable group.
A typical example emerged in 2009, when Sichuan-based artist Li Zhuangping exhibited a series of unprecedented oil paintings of his daughter Li Qin, depicting various shapes and poses in the nude. The father and his daughter suffered great social scrutiny as some believed they had severely violated human morals in creating this work of art.
Sichuan-based artist Li Zhuangping exhibited a series of unprecedented oil paintings of his daughter Li Qin, depicting various shapes and poses in the nude.
It’s also been reported that many young women secretly work as nude models, earning about five yuan (US$0.8) per hour in the 1990s, and 40-50 yuan(US$6.4-7.9) per hour at present. Some have gone on to become famous and receive better payment, whereas most will have to live on these meager sums for life.
Born in: Yichang, Hubei Province
Su Zizi, whose real name is Wang Yanyun, is an art major at the prestigious Remin University of China (RUC). Su made onto the list after she became an Internet sensation at the end of 2010, when it was reported that the 19-year-old undergraduate had paid her college tuition fees by posing for nude portraits since early 2010. From 500 yuan (US$79) per show to 3,500 yuan (US$556) per day, Su has gradually managed to shake off poverty, yet her actions sparked heated debates, with some appreciating her self-reliance and braveness, and others saying that her pictures are borderline nearly pornography, rather than fine art. She got entangled in a web of online rumors and received derogatory messages, both on- and offline. Su held an art exhibition entitled “Who am I” on campus and took group interviews from the media, completely naked, as part of her art project. She believes that posing naked is a legitimate form of artistic expression.
Born in: Heilongjiang Province
24-year-old Chen Lijia is a nurse and nude model. She rose to fame in 2008 after her first set of artistic nude shots were published online. She gained great popularity for her pretty face, elegance and bold poses.
Born in: Wuhan, Hubei Province
23-year-old You Xuan is a Chinese-Malaysian model who stems from a medical family in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Dubbed the “most photogenic Chinese nude model,” You took her first set of nude photos when she was 16 to “forever preserve her youth”. Five years ago, the medicine major officially kicked off her nude modeling career at the price of quitting college and breaking up with her boyfriend who couldn’t accept her choice. You said nude modeling is a highly-despised and poorly-paid occupation and the models are often faced with sexual harassment. You underwent several plastic surgery procedures to get rid of some excess fat in 2010. You now runs an art company and serves as its chief model. She is also the chief model for Huang Jinshu, student of well-known Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan who shot that very first Chinese artistic nude photo in 1928.
Born in: Harbin, Heilongjiang Province
25-year-old Liu Jingjing, a former computer science major, is a nude model famed for her slim and neat figure as well as her quiet and untainted personality. Her fans believe she is more beautiful than Zhang Xiaoyu, who has now been dubbed “China’s No.1 nude model.”
Born in: Jilin Province
20-year-old Mao Ming is a starlet well known for her wild style and daring poses. Other than her nude photos, very little is known about the girl.
Born in: Qingdao, Shandong Province
Ao Lei, a voluptuous nude model known for her mature and sexy style, is 1/4 Japanese- on her father’s side. Ao began studying music when she was a young child. She graduated from a music college and was once a music tutor and singer. Except for her nude artistic photos, relatively little is known about Ao.
Born in: Wuhan, Hubei Province
Wang Dan, an art college graduate, is a dancer, actress and model. She rose to fame in 2005 when she began her nude modeling career by playing the heroine in two artistic videos that captured the human form. Wang’s boyfriend acts as her agent and is responsible for her nude photography business. Wang’s “Mom-and-papa” shop was a full-on success storys, making her more famous online with a large number of her nude artistic works being published within a short period of time.
Born in: Wuxi, Jiangsu Province
Except for her pictures, the only online information available about Chinese nude model Tang Fang, are her age and birthplace. This somewhat mysterious model keeps a low-profile and obviously cherishes her privacy. Nevertheless, Tang is famed for her bold and visually-striking photos which often spark heated online debates. Some professionals from the modeling industry have shown their support for her “devotion to the arts,” whereas many have verbally battered her for being vulgar and obscene.
Born in: Heilongjiang Province
Zhang Xiaoyu, a graduate from a Dalian art college, in Liaoning Province, rose to online fame in 2007, when her bold nude photos were released online. Zhang, the rival of Tang Jiali, the first model on the Chinese mainland to publish personal nude albums, caught netizens’ attention with her amazingly beautiful figure, cute facial expressions and sexually explicit poses. She was the most searched for beauty on China’s search engine Baidu between 2007 and 2010. Zhang has said that what she does, is propelled by her admiration and aspiration for the arts. She just wanted to show off her beautiful sides, rather than gain overnight fame by taking off all her clothes. Zhang believes that the arts involving the human body are of a noble nature and she hopes that society can one day show a greater respect for nude models.
Born in: Hefei, Anhui Province
Tang Jiali is a Chinese dancer, actress and nude model who became famous overnight in 2003 by becoming the very first woman on the Chinese mainland to publish her personal albums of nude photographs. The sets of pictures cost her photographer Zhang Xulong more than one-and-a-half years to shoot. Tang said that the original motive behind the shots was to “forever preserve the images of her youth,” but she realized soon after that she had to allow them to be published in an album-under an agreement signed with the relevant company. Tang, who was twice a women’s gymnastics medalist at provincial-level competitions, said that she was under great pressure and suffered heavy public scrutiny at that time. She once even considered suicide since her father too chastised her for doing such sinful and derogatory things.