Beauty has long been regarded as a mathematical equation in Chinese culture. However, in countries around the world, tolerance for discrimination based on looks is fading fast Cultures clashed this summer at the Beijing Olympics, when a Chinese starlet was found to be lip-synching her song during the opening ceremony. Sweet-faced nine-year-old, Lin Miaoke, was actually miming the voice of vocally-superior seven-year-old, Yang Peiyi, who was deemed by the Olympics Committee as unfit for the camera. Musical director Chen Qigang argued such a setup was necessary: 'The girl appearing on the picture must be flawless in terms of her facial expression and the great feeling she can give to people.' However, the incident drew fire from news media around the world. One newspaper said it was 'yet another reason not to trust the mainland government', while others argued Peiyi was too young to be subjected to such beauty standards. The international media also cried foul over China's selection criteria for hostesses - female volunteers who handed medals to the winners. The hostesses had to meet stringent physical criteria, such as being between 1.7 and 1.8m tall. Many of the women came from flight attendant schools, where they were trained to synchronise their looks and actions to achieve perfection. For example, the women were told to show 'six to eight teeth' when they smiled and practised bowing at 15-, 30- and 45-degree angles. The precise, mathematical approach to beauty is, in fact, deeply rooted in Chinese history. The practice of foot-binding, for instance, was used for centuries by women to create coveted, three-inch lotus-shaped feet. Chinese emperors would choose their wives and concubines by examining thousands of young women and selecting them based on poise, looks and mannerisms. 'In Asia, beauty is more scientific. There is a broader sense of what beautiful is in the west,' said Joseph Bosco, a professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. However, Professor Bosco said such stringent beauty 'rules' were visible in western society just a few decades ago. For instance, American firefighters used to have height requirements which were essentially designed to keep women out of the force. After much lobbying, the discriminatory rule was abolished. As recently as the 1990s in Hong Kong, it was common to find job adverts for secretaries asking for 'pleasant-looking women'. This practice has since been eliminated, but only after complaints. 'Perhaps people haven't challenged beauty norms on the mainland yet,' Professor Bosco added. 'It will require people there to complain for things to change.' Plastic surgery is increasingly popular in developed nations. The United States is a leading market for plastic surgery and airs several reality TV shows where women undergo painful surgical makeovers to achieve a 'perfect' face. In South Korea, some parents give their daughters eyelid cosmetic surgery as graduation presents.