In most countries, umbrellas are used to protect against the rain. In China, umbrellas are used in the rain and the sun, and sometimes on cloudy days just in case some sun rays get through the clouds. Why do people use umbrellas in the sun? To protect their skin from getting burned. As global concerns about skin cancer and the harmful effects of UV rays grow, more people may be seen using umbrellas in the sun. However, sun umbrellas aren't only used for health benefits in China. Pale skin is a beauty ideal so getting sunburned or tan is a big fear, especially for women.
Any rain umbrella can double as a sun umbrella, however, there are umbrellas designed specifically for sun protection. In English, such umbrellas might be called parasols. The number one feature is to block the sun and UV rays. Since it's mostly women protecting their skin from the sun, these umbrellas are also designed to be pretty, often with lace trim or other delicate designs. Often, sun umbrellas will be black underneath to absorb heat as well.
The beauty ideal of pale skin is associated with wealth and not having to work outside so dark skin on men is also important but not guarded as fiercely. Men are also expected to be strong and able to endure hardships so for a man to use a sun umbrella is considered a sign of weakness. That doesn't mean that men don't want to use a sun umbrella. Instead, men will make sure they have a girlfriend for the summer whom they can share an umbrella with.
This article is part of our new online Chinese course. An efficient way to learn Chinese language for working and living in China.