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. [File Photo]
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.
China.org.cn has compiled a top ten of the most famous, yet controversial, nude models in China:
Su Zizi 苏紫紫
Su Zizi [File Photo]
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.