I heard this story while I was living in China a few years ago…
One of the best professor’s I’ve ever had told us this story in class and it stuck with me.
I haven’t been able to validate the truth of it, but the concepts behind it are undeniably thought-provoking so I encourage you to read ahead with an open mind –
Have you ever wondered why everyone wants to be tanned?
As spring time approaches, my Instagram feeds is slowly becoming flooded with bikini shots and the vintage “Can’t wait to get my tan on” captions
Even though I can’t work up the biggest tan myself (I’m telling you all, I do turn a different shade of caramel though), it’s a phenomenon that’s always interested me.
Conversely however, I often see Asian people under the sweltering UV’s of Australia and even in China hiding under umbrella’s as soon as the clouds clear for the sunshine.
So this is where the story comes in…
Now a long time ago (okay, well 200 years ago in the 18th century) we underwent one of the most monumental transitions in human history.
From an agrarian society that focused on manual labour, we transitioned into the industrial revolution. Suddenly we had machines to complete much of the work that humans could do in a sliver of the time. With these changes, a lot of the work from the fields was brought inside to factories.
Manufacturing processes rapidly developed and farmers suddenly found themselves working on conveyor belts or inside factories.
Longing for the outdoors, the majority of workers (the peasant class) were inside and pale without the sunshine. (What a travesty, especially without Bondi Sands back then)
The only people who had tans were the wealthy…
The foremans of the factories (the ruling class), could afford to go on holidays and escape the drudgery of monotonous factory life.
So, suddenly everyone wanted to be darker, because it was a sign of status and class (much the same way that we copy many of the weird things that celebrities do today)
The Asian culture was completely different
China’s industrialisation didn’t begin until Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ from 1958-1961, transforming a predominantly agrarian society into a modernistic community through industrialisation.
However, even this wasn’t completely successful and it wasn’t until 1978 when China finally ‘opened up’ and has now taken the mantle as the world’s biggest manufacturer and completely industrialised.
That’s enough history though, lets take a quick look into what that means for our story.
So, for a long-time, while the west had industrialised and were stuck in factories China and a lot of Asia were still farming communities out on the land.
Those out on the land were dark, sun-kissed and bronzed.
This is perfect, right…?
See that’s the thing. In China, all the peasants and working class were in the sun. However, it was the rich and wealthy who stayed inside as they had all the employees work for them.
They enjoyed nice air-conditioning (well, fans back then) and were able to keep fair skin.
So suddenly the entire peasant class in China wanted to be like the wealthy. Able to enjoy a relaxed life indoors, free from the sun bearing down on them and the heavy labour work.
A tan and sun that was darkened from long-days in the sunshine were seen to represent the poor, working class.
So what can we learn?
Other than it being an interesting story and providing a bit of context into why everyone wants a tan, it gives an interesting insight into perspective and looking deeper.
This story can be an allegory for life and many of the situations that we see others do but never understand.
It’s not until we look deeper do we start to understand people’s motives, the reasons behind why they do things and the unique perspective that everyone has.
As a generation, we’ve been conditioned to fear what we don’t know.
However I want to challenge that and say it’s our duty to learn more about things.
Knowledge is power.
Instead of taking things at face value and just accepting them as – ‘the way they’ve always been’,
Let’s investigate things.
Let’s ask the big questions.
Let’s challenge the status quo.
Thank you for reading this blog. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe below so you can stay up to date with all the new posts!
If you haven’t yet, please check out my first posts – Introduction: Who is Nahu, The Night I Almost Died, Are Our Lives Really That Bad, What’s The Worst That Can Happen?, My 4 Favourite European Cities, Time Isn’t Real, Life Without a Father, Running A Half-Marathon, Stories From The Street, Filter Bubbles, The Growth Mindset & My Biggest Fear!