The eyes are arguably the one feature of the human face with the most extensive diversity present in them.
Eye shapes, in particular, are very distinctive and in the absence of better alternatives, can serve as vague ethnic markers at times.
So, what determines the way our eyes look?
Eye Shapes And Genetics
There is very little about our appearance that is not determined by our genetics. From height to eye and hair color and yes, to even eye shape, all of it is determined by the genes we inherit from our parents.
That is the reason why certain ethnicities have distinctive features. When both parents are of the same ethnic background, the child also ends up with similar features.
Monolid eyes, specifically, are particularly distinctive in their appearance. We’ve all come across people with monolid eyes at some point; as soon as we notice the lack of a crease in the eyelid, it is apparent that the person has monolid eyes, or what is sometimes also called “Asian” eyes—albeit incorrectly.
But Asia is a huge continent and there is plenty of variation and diversity to be found within it. Contrary to what popular stereotypes would have you believe, Asians do not all look the exact same.
For instance, you might not be aware that Chinese eyes and Japanese eyes, despite both being monolid, are actually quite different from each other. For clarity’s sake, let’s first see what is meant by Chinese eyes and Japanese eyes.
As is evident, the term is used to describe the eye structure of people belonging to the Chinese subcontinent. The people of this region are believed to have descended from the Cantonese, Hokla, and Hakka lineages and according to some anthropological studies, also of the Mongols.
Used to refer to the eye structure of people belonging to the islands of Japan. The native people of Japan are descendants of the Yayoi and Jomon people, and are closely related to other East Asian ethnicities as well, such as that from Korea.
Key Differences Between Chinese And Japanese Eyes
- Eye Size
Contrary to popular belief, East Asian and Southeast Asian people don’t actually have smaller eyes compared to people from the West. Instead, the structure surrounding the eyes is such that it makes them look smaller.
Chinese eyes generally appear to be smaller than Japanese eyes. This may be due to the relative difference in facial shapes and sizes of the Chinese and Japanese people.
Chinese faces tend to be rounder and flatter which would cause the eyes to look smaller compared to a Japanese face, which is narrower and makes the eyes appear slightly bigger.
- Eye Shape
Chinese eyes are usually anywhere from almond-shaped to oval, while Japanese eyes are more definitively oval-shaped and tend to be on the rounder side.
The result is that Chinese eyes look more angular compared to Japanese eyes, which in turn also contributes to the perceived size difference between them.
- Angle Of Placement
Chinese eyes are angled downwards—that is, compared to the inner corner, the outer corner of the eye is turned slightly downwards towards the cheekbone.
On the other hand, Japanese eyes are angled upwards—that is, the outer corner of the eye is turned slightly up towards the brow bone, making it have the opposite angle orientation to Chinese eyes.
As mentioned earlier, Chinese eyes are set closer together on a relatively flatter and wider facial structure. As a result, Chinese eyes look smaller and are not a very prominent feature of the face.
Japanese people, on the other hand, have a comparatively longer and narrower face with eyes that are set wider apart, making them look bigger and hence a more prominent feature of the face.
Chinese eyes have eyelids that are single-edged, with a very prominent epicanthic fold (the fold over the inner corner of the eye). The crease of the eye is a very rare occurrence within Chinese people and even when it is present, it is not very distinctive.
Japanese eyes, on the other hand, are double-edged, meaning they have clearly defined corners and a slightly more distinctive crease than Chinese eyes. The epicanthic fold is also not as prominent.
Differences Based On Sex And Age
- Among the Chinese, women tend to have smaller eyes than men. For the Japanese, it is vice versa, that is, women have larger eyes than men on average.
- Women in both ethnicities also tend to have longer and more curved eyelashes than men.
- For both demographics, the appearance of the eyes changes with age, with the eyes turning downwards and losing at least some of the definition of their shape as the person progresses in age.
Difficulties In Diffrentiation
When discussing the differences between the features of Chinese and Japanese people, it is important to keep in mind that these two ethnicities are quite closely related and there are no surefire ways to differentiate between them.
- The geographical and climate conditions of the two regions are similar, so the evolutionary changes that came in the people along with time are also similar.
- One can argue, though, that Japan is a group of islands whose population has remained largely secluded amongst itself for millennia. That is enough to cause the conjecture that they might have evolved some distinguishing features of their own.
- That said, it is to be noted that China is a very vast country and its population is extremely diversified, with several languages, subgroups, and sub-races to be found within mainland China itself. All of that makes it very difficult to generalize the Chinese position into one standard appearance.
- Furthermore, there has been much immigration and cross-matches between the two countries as well causing their appearances to be influenced by each other to a degree.
All of these factors combined make it rather hard to tell the difference between features of various East Asian and Southeast Asian ethnicities.
Trying to narrow down or compare the appearance of any specific feature between these two ethnicities, therefore, is like trying to differentiate between ethnicities within the Caucasian races.
For instance, you can easily tell an Asian and a Caucasian person apart based on their features but it is much harder to differentiate between, say, a French and a German person. In a similar way, it is a hard and somewhat futile task to try and differentiate between Chinese and Japanese features.
Chinese and Japanese eyes have arguably very few points of difference based on which meaningful distinctions can be made between the two.
Some of the presumed differences include a difference in the eye size, shape, and angle of placements. One can also differentiate between the two on the basis of their placement on the face, that is, whether they’re close-set or far-set.
However, it is crucial to note that none of the points discussed above can be considered infallible and unerring a hundred percent of the time and should, therefore, be considered only a rough guideline instead of a concrete metric.
The only surefire way to know when you’re in doubt as to the ethnicity of a person is just to ask!