Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences (2022)

Culture • By Katie Coy •

Western vs Chinese Beauty Standards – The Main Differences Explained

How big are the differences between Chinese beauty standards and those of the West?

Well, to put it simply there are some really big differences in what is deemed as the “ideal” in China versus the “ideal” in the West.

Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences (1)

Although there are some similarities, it may surprise you just how different some of the Chinese perceptions of beauty are compared to those in the West.

A Chinese woman considered beautiful in the West won’t necessarily be viewed that way in China and the reverse goes for those women viewed as beautiful in China.

Take famous Chinese model Lu Yan (吕燕 lǚ yàn) who is renowned for her stunning features in the West, but is regarded in China as rather unusual looking and certainly not a perfect example of Chinese beauty.

So what are the key differences and are there any similarities?

Chinese Beauty Standards – Skin Tone

Chinese Beauty Standards – Body Shape

Chinese Beauty Standards – Face Shape

Chinese Beauty Standards – Facial Features

Chinese Beauty Standards – Plastic Surgery

Chinese Beauty Standards – Beauty “Challenge” Trends

Chinese Beauty Standards – For Men

Chinese Beauty Standards – Skin Tone

One of the biggest key differences between Chinese beauty standards and the West is skin tone.

In China white, pale skin is the beauty ideal in stark contrast to the West where a year-round tan is sought after by most.

Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences (2)

You may be familiar with the internet Chinese slang to describe “Ms. Perfect” which is 白富美 (bái fù měi) which literally means: white, rich and beautiful. This shows the importance of fairer skin in Chinese society.

Anyone who has lived in China during summer will be familiar with the sight of Chinese women sheltering under umbrellas to avoid the sun.

Go to a Chinese beach and you won’t be struck with the sight of sunbathers trying to catch a tan.

In fact a “facekini”, (a face mask that covers your entire head to protect you from the sun) became a Chinese fashion trend a few years ago.

Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences (3)
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In China whitening products are hugely popular with everything from whitening moisturiser and facemasks to whitening deodorant (yes really that exists).

Big brands such as Nivea subscribe to this pale skin beauty ideal with whole lines of products dedicated to whitening.

It can actually be hard sometimes to find beauty products that don’t contain some kind of whitening agent, so if you’re buying cosmetics in China watch out!

In the same way many girls in the west will use bronzer or fake tan in China many girls will apply makeup to make themselves look paler.

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But where does this obsession for the palest skin come from?

The desire for pale skin dates back to Ancient China when only rich people had fair skin because they didn’t have to work in the fields like peasants would. This ideal still exists in China today with white, smooth skin being a sure indication that you’re not lower class.

During Victorian times in the West pale skin was also sought after for the same reason, but once the rich started going abroad on holiday having a tan to prove you could afford to travel became the beauty norm.

It will be interesting to see if the same change will occur in China in the future with more Chinese tourists travelling abroad, but for now pale skin is firmly set as one of the ideal Chinese beauty standards.

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Chinese Beauty Standards – Body Shape

Next up we have the differences in Chinese beauty standards towards body shape.

Currently in Chinese society the most desirable body shape is to be as slim or thin (瘦shòu) as possible.

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Now, of course, in the west being slim is also an ideal beauty standard, however the “perfect” figure is more curvy with a small waist, large hips and breasts (think Barbie’s weird proportions).

In recent years there has also been a rise of body positivity in the West with more curvy figures being embraced by the beauty industry.

With butt implants now becoming one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures the difference with Chinese beauty standards has become more pronounced.

Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences (8)

In the west there is also more of a focus on fitness, with women being expected to be skinny and toned, whereas in China the emphasis is really just on being thin.

Most Chinese women are naturally quite slim so to even have a little bit of extra weight seen in a very negative light by most.

The majority of Chinese women are under immense pressure to conform to the skinny stereotype and those that are labelled “chubby” are deemed unattractive.

For instance on the popular Chinese dating show If You Are the One some of the curvier contestants have been rejected on these grounds.

Throughout Chinese history small, dainty women have often been valued in Chinese culture.

Watch pretty much any Chinese drama or Chinese film and you can guarantee that almost all of the female leads and characters are going to be be very thin.

If there are any TV shows or films featuring an “overweight” character this is normally used as a plot device with the character losing weight in order to get the guy etc.

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Chinese Beauty Standards – Face Shape

Following on from Chinese ideals of body shape, it probably won’t come as surprise that a thinner face is viewed as the most beautiful face shape.

Face shape (脸型 liǎnxíng) actually holds a lot of importance in Chinese beauty standards. This dates back to face reading which has been commonplace in China since ancient times.

In the West there are really just the main face shapes: square, round, oval and triangle whereas in China there are many more:

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ChinesePinyinEnglish
瓜子脸guāzǐliǎnMelon seed face
鹅蛋脸é’dànliǎnGoose egg face
国字脸/方脸guózìliǎn/fāng liǎnSquare face
长脸 cháng liǎnLong face
三角形脸sānjiǎoxíng liǎnTriangular-shaped face
倒三角型脸 dào sānjiǎoxíng liǎnInverted triangle-shaped face
圆脸 /包子脸yuán liǎn/bāozi liǎnRound face
菱形脸língxíng liǎnDiamond-shaped face

Out of these the two most ideal face shapes are melon seed face and goose egg face.

Basically faces which have a very thin chin and jawline so they are shaped like a “V”.

Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences (10)

Having a square shaped face is viewed as the most unattractive face shape in Chinese beauty standards as it’s considered very manly.

In fact most selfie cameras on Chines smart phones will have a “slender” beautify setting that will give you more of an oval shaped face.

Chinese Beauty Standards – Facial Features

Eyes

In China having big eyes (大眼睛dà yǎnjīng) with a double-fold eyelid (双眼皮shuāng yǎnpí) is the most desirable eye shape. Most Chinese people don’t have the double-fold eyelid that Westerners have and instead have single fold eyelids (单眼皮dān yǎnpí).

Having single fold eyelids as well as slim eyes (细长眼睛xì cháng yǎnjing) are not viewed as attractive in China.

Many people believe this comes from the belief that Chinese people want to look more Western, however some sources say this actually just part of Chinese culture where bigger eyes are viewed as more womanly, innocent, and doll-like.

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Nose

If you’ve ever lived or travelled in China as a Westerner you may have been complemented on your “big nose” by Chinese people. This is because having a more prominent nose, with a high bridge is seen as the most attractive.

The majority of Chinese people have more of a flat, broad nose so many can be envious of foreigners who have more pronounced noses.

Mouth

Like in modern Western beauty, full lips are the sought after mouth shape in China.

However, although full, luscious lips are desirable, a more narrow mouth is preferred rather than one that is super wide.

This again dates back to the tradition of face reading in China where fuller lips are thought to be good luck and show a more warm, fun-loving and expressive personality. Thinner lips, on the other hand, indicate a more cold, calculating and determined personality.

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Chinese Beauty Standards – Plastic Surgery

In recent years there has been a huge boom in plastic surgery in China, with many Chinese women (and some men) opting to undergo the knife in order to conform to Chinese beauty standards.

You can see from the chart below which plastic surgeries are most popular to least popular in China:

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With 50% of all plastic surgery being eye surgery it’s clear that this is the most common and popular plastic surgery to have in China.

This comes from the Chinese beauty standards relating to eyes, wanting bigger eyes and also the all important double-fold eyelid.

The second most popular is nose surgery, which given how an ideal nose has a more pronounced bridge isn’t too surprising.

Although face shape in China is very important, only 5% of plastic surgeries are facial sculpting.

This is a very painful procedure which can take months to heal from so generally most Chinese women will opt to just edit their faces in selfie mode instead 😂.

Chinese Beauty Standards – Beauty “Challenge” Trends

Over the past few years there have been quite a few beauty “challenge” trends which have gone viral across China.

In the West most trends or “challenges” that have gone viral have revolved around TikTok and are often a mixture of humour, dancing and a chance to show off your body (such as being able to twerk).

Whereas in China things have taken a rather different turn with the main focus being Chinese women showing off how thin they are in a number of rather unique ways. Here are some of the biggest ones to have swept over China in recent times.

A4 Waist Challenge

Women were challenged to share photos of themselves holding up an A4 piece of paper in front of their waist to show that they were thinner than the width of the piece of paper.

Understandably this sparked a lot of controversy with the challenge being accused of promoting unhealthy lifestyles.

However, some women took a more humorous twist on the challenge and posted photos of themselves with there degrees held up in front of their waists instead.

100 Yuan Wrist Challenge

Another challenge involving paper was a viral trend where women were wrapping 100 yuan notes round their wrists to show how skinny they were. Some women took the trend even further by wrapping even smaller bank notes around their wrists.

Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences (12)

Belly Button Challenge

Now this is definitely one of the more weirder challenges to have taken China by storm. Participants were asked to reach their belly button by wrapping their arm behind themselves around their waist.

This was supposed to be proof of a person’s slim waist, however it soon became apparent that this challenge really came down to the length and flexibility of your arms.

iPhone 6 Knees Challenge

This is another challenge that may leave you just asking why?

In this one Chinese women posted pictures of their knees with an iPhone 6 balanced on top to show how “pencil thin” they were.

Women who could successfully hide their knees behind the phone were deemed to have the ideal standard of leg.

Coins on the Collarbone Challenge

Lastly we have a challenge that also involved money, though this time in the form of coins rather than notes.

To prove one’s skinny figure women were balancing stacks of coins standing upright on their collarbones. The more coins you can balance, supposedly the better figure you should have.

Some people were able to balance as many as 20 coins, which although probably says nothing about how you look, does show that you have good balancing skills!

No matter what you think of these bizarre challenges it certainly shows that a real obsession for being thin exists among Chinese netizens.

Chinese Beauty Standards – For Men

We’ve had a look at the different Chinese beauty standards for women, but what about men?

(Video) Chinese Beauty Standards are Different

For Chinese men, having paler skins is also the desired skin tone for men.

Like women there are tonnes of whitening skin beauty products available which are targeted directly at men.

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However, there is not as much pressure on men to have more pale skin and having a tan is more acceptable. Lighter skin is still preferred, but in modern day China men can also have tanned skin still be deemed attractive.

There is also much less pressure for men in Chinese society to be as thin as women, however men with a slim build are preferred.

Unlike the West being very muscly and masculine is a lot less important when it comes to male body shape.

In fact, in recent years more of an effeminate look has become more popular with the rise of 小鲜肉 (xiǎo xiān ròu) which means “little fresh meat”.

This slang describes a new young generation of male Chinese heart-throbs who look more androgynous.

But, there is one similarity to the West when it comes to height with taller men being viewed as more attractive.

For example the equivalent slang phrase of “Ms Perfect” (白富美 bái fù měi) for men is 高富帅 (gāo fù shuài) which literally means: tall, rich, handsome. This is pretty similar to the English phrase “tall, dark and handsome” if you think about it.

Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences (14)

In the same way that a more narrow, oval face is viewed as more feminine and therefore a more desirable face shape for women.

When it comes to men a strong, defined jawline is seen as more masculine and so the male beauty ideal.

When it comes to eyes, bigger eyes are preferred the same as they are with women.

Although, having single-fold eyelids is much more acceptable for men, which means far fewer Chinese men have plastic surgery on their eyes.

One definite similarity between Chinese and Western beauty standards is that women are under much more pressure than men in both societies to conform to “beauty ideals”.

Want to find more out about Chinese beauty standards vs the West? Check out our blog about how makeup differs.

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Chinese Beauty Standards – FAQs

What are the ideal Chinese beauty standards for women?

The ideal Chinese beauty standards for women are having fair or pale skin, being thin, having large eyes with double-fold eyelids and a “goose egg” shaped face.

Why do Chinese women want pale skin?

In China pale, smooth skin is desirable because it is seen as an indication that you’re not lower class like a peasant who has to work outside in the sun all day and so gets tanned skin.

What is the ideal face shape in Chinese beauty?

In Chinese beauty the ideal face shape is more of an oval face with a narrow chin, two very desirable face shapes are: goose duck egg 鹅蛋脸 é’dànliǎn or melon seed 瓜子脸 guāzǐliǎn.

What are the ideal Chinese beauty standards for men?

The ideal Chinese beauty standards for men are to have pale skin, to be of a slim build and to be tall.

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Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences (16)

FAQs

Chinese Beauty Standards (in 2022) vs The West - The Key Differences? ›

One of the biggest key differences between Chinese beauty standards and the West is skin tone. In China white, pale skin is the beauty ideal

beauty ideal
Feminine beauty ideals are mainly rooted in heteronormative beliefs, but they heavily influence women of all sexual orientations. The feminine beauty ideal traits include but are not limited to: female body shape, facial feature, skin tones, height, clothing style, hairstyle and body weight.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Feminine_beauty_ideal
in stark contrast to the West where a year-round tan is sought after by most.

What are China's beauty standards? ›

The faces of beauty. Big eyes, a “tall” nose, a small frame, and of course, a fair complexion. Whether it's for a man or woman, these are the most important factors when it comes to Chinese beauty standards. Throughout history, a small face with a pointy chin has been the mark of beauty for most Chinese women.

What was ancient Chinese beauty standards? ›

Thus, historically, the religious influences on Chinese beauty ideals closely tied outer beauty to inner beauty. Historically, Tang Dynast preferred an oval face, willow leaf eyebrows, long thin eyes, small lips, and a slim, fragile-looking body.

What are Western beauty standards? ›

Western beauty ideals include being thin and tall, having long hair, having light/tanned skin, having big breasts, large eyes, a small nose, and high cheekbones (​1​).

What was the standard of beauty during the Sung Dynasty in China? ›

Throughout history, Chinese women have been expected to be very small, slim, and petite. In the Han Dynasty, small feet were widely appreciated, and they even went to the extent of foot binding to achieve this “delicate” look. The lips were considered the sexiest feature on a woman in the Han Dynasty.

What is the ideal body type 2021? ›

However, achieving the perfect hourglass figure in 2021 can be done without shapewear and clothing ranges. We're exploring why 2021 is set to be the year of the hourglass and how you can get that desirable body shape with Hans Place.

What is the secret of Chinese beautiful skin? ›

Skin rejuvenation is a very important part of Chinese skin care. It helps to retain the natural look. Chinese women generally use a mixture of oyster shell powder with honey and egg yolk. This helps to tighten the pores, brighten the skin and reduce inflammation and redness.

What is the standard of beauty today? ›

Arguably, today's beauty standards say that women are expected to wear makeup in their daily lives, work out at the gym, stay skinny with curves in the right places, and be young. However, what makes today different from the past is that we can also show our uniqueness, as society has become more inclusive.

Which part of China has the most beautiful woman? ›

Harbin girls claim the number one spot thanks to their good fashion sense and perfect shape. The list was compiled based on girls who were between 16 and 32 years old. The selection is based on three indexes - their appearance, dress and charm. Half of the 20 cities are located in south and central China.

Why is China so beautiful? ›

Most Varied and Spectacular Natural Wonders. As far as natural beauty goes, China goes bigger and more-varied and spectacular than any country in the world, if you count everything. The Li River karst scenery in Guilin is treasured as "the best landscape under heaven".

What is the beauty standard in America 2022? ›

"For 2022 we can expect extra-long hair, sleek 'dos like the chignon, headscarves, and braids to frame the face, over-accessorized hair and lots of 90s-inspired hairstyles." Ah yes, accessories.

Which country has the most toxic beauty standards? ›

In 2015, a global survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons placed South Korea in the top ten of countries who had the highest rate of cosmetic surgeries. Korean beauty standards prioritize a slim figure, small face, v-shaped jaw, pale skin, straight eyebrows, flawless skin, and larger eyes.

Which country has the best beauty standards? ›

1. BRAZIL: Brazil is the country that possesses a large number of models fit and trimmed to perfection. They have very sharp features possessing beautiful eyes, properly toned bodies, beautiful hair both blond n black, their attractive appearance, their ravishing, and stunning looks.

Was foot binding a beauty standard? ›

By the 19th century, it was estimated that 40-50% of Chinese women had bound feet, and among upper class Han Chinese women, the figure was almost 100%. Bound feet became a mark of beauty and was also a prerequisite for finding a husband, who gained status by marrying a woman with bound feet.

What is the ideal body type for 2022? ›

The overall expectation for fashion and body type trends in 2022 is that there will be more skin and less fabric than we have seen in recent years. Another nod back to 2002, where bra tops, tube tops and miniskirts were everywhere you turned.

Who has the most beautiful female body? ›

Among all the data collected, Bella Hadid ranked highest with a result of 94.35% of symmetry.
...
According to Science, Bella Hadid is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World
  • Kate Moss (91.05%)
  • Scarlett Johansson (90.91%)
  • Natalie Portman (90.51%)
  • Katy Perry (90.08%)
  • Cara Delevingne (89.99%)
4 days ago

Who has the perfect female body? ›

Researchers at the University of Texas say the perfect female body measures 1.68 metres in height. The bust/weight/hip measurements are 99-63-91. They find that model and TV presenter Kelly Brook is the right fit with the most perfect body in the world.

Why Chinese skin is so clear? ›

They believe that routine massages will ensure proper blood flow and keep them sturdy and fit. They also partake in spas and hot springs to flush out toxins from their bodies, so that their skin is clean and hydrated.

What is the average height of Chinese girl? ›

On average, women in Guatemala are the shortest at just under 4 feet 10 inches.
...
Heights Around the World.
CountryAverage Height for Women
United States5 ft. 3 in. (161.5 cm)
China5 ft. 2.4 in. (159.8 cm)
Iran5 ft. 2.3 in. (159.7 cm)
Nigeria5 ft. 1.3 in. (156.4 cm)
3 more rows
Apr 29, 2022

How can I get Korean white skin naturally? ›

4 Korean home remedies for bright and clear skin
  1. Lemon and Strawberry Face Mask. Lemon is an antioxidant that naturally contains vitamin C and is known to help reduce skin damage and premature aging. ...
  2. Rice Flour and Aloe Vera Face Mask. ...
  3. Fermented Rice Water Face Mist. ...
  4. Green Tea Facial Rinse.
Apr 24, 2021

Why do beauty standards change over the years? ›

It's constantly being molded by what you see and experience around you, and it absorbs new information throughout your life. So when you see ads for vitamins that feature extremely thin women as an "ideal" of fitness, your brain is quick to pick up on that messaging (no matter how misleading that may be).

How do beauty standards differ around the world? ›

How Beauty Standards Differ Around The World - YouTube

Why are Korean beauty standards so toxic? ›

I suggest that the strain of meeting South Korea's beauty standards is due to South Korea's embedded “listening culture” and social conformity. Many women and men become self-critical and as a result which contributes to the vicious cycle of feeling a low sense of self-worth and wanting to resort to cosmetic surgery.

What is the most beautiful name in Chinese? ›

Common Chinese Name Ideas for Baby Girls in English
NameMeaning
Li jingBeautiful spirit
Li meiBeautiful plum blossom
Li naBeautiful/graceful
Li weiBeautiful/graceful
15 more rows
Mar 7, 2022

Who's the most beautiful human in the world? ›

1. Bella Hadid. Based on the report from “Golden Ratio of Beauty Phi,” Bella Hadid is regarded as the most attractive & Beautiful woman who has beautiful facial characteristics. Everything is flawless from a perfect jawline to gorgeous eyes, from the lips to the face shape.

What city in China has the best weather? ›

Top 5 Warm Places to Visit in China - Relax and Bath in the Sun of the South
  • Top 1: Yunnan Province (Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Xishuangbanna, Yuanyang, Tengchong)
  • Top 2: Fujian Province (Xiamen, Fujian Tulou)
  • Top 3: Amazing Great Bay Area (Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzhen, Guangzhou)
  • Top 4: Hainan Island (Sanya, Haikou)

Which is the most beautiful country in the world 2021? ›

Click on a tile for details. Everyone has their own specific idea of which countries are beautiful and what makes a place one of the best countries to visit. For some, beauty is the Aurora Borealis in Iceland or the ruins of Macchu Pichu in Peru.
...
Most Beautiful Countries in the World 2022.
CountryPeru
Conde Nast 2019Yes
Travel + LeisureYes
Conde Nast 2021*
53 more columns

What is the most attractive country? ›

The people of Ukraine have been named as the sexiest in the world, according to a new survey. Men and women hailing from the Eastern European nation were found to be the most attractive, followed by Danish and Filipino in third.

Is a China a pretty place? ›

China is famous for its profound history and natural scenery. Some tourists are interested in a trip to explore the Chinese history, while others prefer to enjoy the natural scenery. Most Beautiful Places in China would like to show you the most popular scenic cities with stunning natural scenery in China.

What are the beauty trends 2022? ›

The Makeup Summer Beauty Trends of 2022
  • Double Eyeliner.
  • Earthy Shades.
  • Emerging Makeup Brands to Try.
  • A Touch of Texture.
  • A Goodbye to Beach Waves.
  • Micro Accessories.
  • Strawberry Strong.
  • The Wet Look.
May 26, 2022

What is the most popular beauty treatment 2022? ›

Popular Beauty Treatment List Of 2022
  • Lash Lift & Tint.
  • Scalp Micro Pigmentation.
  • Laser Hair Removal.
  • Fat Freezing.
  • Fat Dissolving.
  • Chemical Peel.
  • Microdermabrasion.
  • CBD Facial Treatment.
May 26, 2022

Are freckles in Style 2022? ›

Faux freckles

Long gone are the days of trying to hide freckles. Instead, we've gone the opposite way: faux freckles are one of this season's biggest beauty trends. As we head toward warmer weather, we're also keeping an eye out for more natural, summer-forward makeup looks.

Is Korean beauty toxic? ›

Global News: News emerged today of the South Korean government banning the sale of 13 cosmetic products found to contain unsafe levels of metal antimony. The product have had an immediate recall issued by the government.

Why do Koreans have good skin? ›

Since ancient times, Koreans have only used natural, harsh-free ingredients for their skincare routines: green tea, “snail slime”, bamboo extracts, propolis, and honey are just some examples of the elements they used and have passed through generations.

What are Russian beauty standards? ›

Traditionally, Russian beauty standards favor women who are tall — about 5 feet 8 inches — with long blonde hair and a thin figure. Women are expected to have dresses and skirts in their wardrobes.

Which country has best skin? ›

People in countries like Denmark, Finland, and Norway tend to look at beauty as deeper than what you put on your skin.

What does small feet mean on a girl? ›

Metaphorically women's small feet indicate “the right measure” in marital relationships. In general, women that look vulnerable seem to have more sex appeal to men than strong-looking females, as female vulnerability confirms the established gender hierarchy.

Is foot binding painful? ›

In late imperial China, bound feet were considered a status symbol and a mark of feminine beauty. However, footbinding was a painful practice that limited the mobility of women and resulted in lifelong disabilities. The prevalence and practice of footbinding varied over time and by region and social class.

Who banned foot binding? ›

During the Qing Dynasty the emperor Kangxi (reigned 1661–1722) banned footbinding in 1662 but withdrew the ban in 1668 because so many Chinese were still practicing it.

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