THEY may be heart-throbs to millions around the world, but Li Yapeng and Nicholas Tse are ugly, according to foreign women in China, polled for a study. Yapeng, a popular mainland Chinese TV actor and superstar Faye Wong's husband, was thought by Western women in a study to be the ugliest of 18 well-known Asian male personalities. Close behind him are director Wong Kar-wai, China actor Ge You, action star Jackie Chan and Hong Kong's Nicholas.
The study, done by a professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, has raised some eyebrows around theworld. The stars themselves were surprised. Yapeng's manager Ma Jia said: 'The study is very frivolous. The Eastern and Western measures of beauty are very different in the first place.'
Ms Stephanie Goh, a 20-year-old student here, thought calling Yapeng the ugliest man was 'ridiculous'.
'Li Yapeng may not be handsome in the conventional sense, but he has his charm, especially in his roles in period drama serials,' she said.
The survey polled 108 foreign women in Shanghai to find out 'the image of famous Chinese actors in the eyes of Western women'.
They were shown pictures of 18 well-known Asian men, including Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Andy Lau, Stephen Chow, Jay Chou, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Jet Li and Zhang Yimou.
Professor Zhang Jiehai, who led the two-year study, told the Chinese media that the male celebrities he chose were the source of Western women's impression of Chinese men.
Many netizens are appalled by the study and question its value. An enraged Chinese national wrote: 'What has (it) to do with raising the status of the country and improving people's lives? The most disgusting thing is trying to find out the opinions of foreigners. Are the Chinese people living for others?'
Another netizen wrote: 'Instead of researching on psychology, you're studying people's looks?... Aren't your academy's expenses paid by tax-payers?'
Radio 100.3FM deejay Ken Low, who has many foreign friends from when he was studying in Australia, also agreed that Western perceptions of beauty are different from those in the East.
He said: 'Those whom we think are ugly, they (Westerners) think of as cute and special.
'How we view beauty boils down to the different influences from our backgrounds and cultures.'
So what did the foreign women dislike about men like Yapeng and Nicholas? If the study is anything to go by, it's their long hair. The women polled reportedly said that was is fashionable for men to have short hair - to portray their manliness - while long hair is equated with a wanderer or beggar.
However, contradicting this finding was the result for the best-looking actor - Takeshi, who sports long hair. Why the seemingly contradictory opinions? Radio 100.3FM vice-president Anna Lim had an explanation.
She said: 'Women, whether Western or Asian, have the same problem. They may use trends to assess a man. But if they fancy a particular man, they forget all about trends.'
Heavenly King Andy Lau emerged the biggest winner. Although only third in the looks department (see box at right), he was deemed to have the best qualities as a husband, lover and working partner.
Dr Zhang said the study could help Chinese male stars who are looking at tapping the international market.
He said: 'There are two schools of thought. One is to copy the West entirely. Andy Lau is a role model among the Chinese male actors in terms of packaging.
'The second is to establish a unique Chinese image, such as Jackie Chan, who use gongfu to stand out, but women are not necessarily attracted tothem.'
However, Ms Loh pointed out that show business has room for all types and said that one doesn't need good looks to be internationally successful.
Deejay Ken Low agreed: 'Stars like Jackie Chan may not be conventionally handsome, but because of the hard work they have put in through the years and the charity work they have done, they appeal to people.'
THE UGLY GUYS
1. Li Yapeng
2. Wong Kar-wai
3. Ge You
4. Jackie Chan
5. Nicholas Tse
1. Takeshi Kaneshiro
2. Jet L
3. Andy Lau
4. Liu Ye
5. Tony Leung Chiu-wai
I don't think Nicholas Tse is ugly Tough crowd