Talking To The Facekini Women Of China

This article was originally published on July 13, 2015.

The coastline in China extends well over 18,000 kilometers, ensuring that the Middle Kingdom never lacks for beautiful beaches. Although China’s most popular beach resorts are located in Beihai, Qingdao, Sanya, and Xiamen.

North of Shandong Peninsula, eastern China’s Shandong Province, Qingdao has a total of 44 beaches along the 710 kilometers of coastline, according to Qingdao News, a major newspaper of the city.

The beach is a signature, and usually the first stop for tourists from all over the country to visit in Qingdao.

Here on the beach, you can see ladies wearing long skirts and straw hats, drinking beer poured in a plastic bag; families, usually parents with a kid (due to China's one-child policy) playing in the sand; and engaged couples having their pre-wedding photos taken by photographers.

However, none of this is as stunning as a bunch of middle-aged Qingdaonese women who regularly swim in the ocean.

These beach icons draw attention because of their bizarre swim gear: colorful, full-face masks. Dubbed "facekini," the fabric masks cover a swimmer's entire head and neck down to the collar bones. Holes are cut for the eyes, nostrils, and mouth. Women wear them for protection from getting a tan and jellyfish stings.

Swimming is a daily practice for the facekini ladies. They normally come to the beach around 5:30 a.m. every day, no matter if it’s summer or winter, sun or rain. Ahead, we interview eight of the beach's famous facekini women.

Photographed by Heyson Du.
Li Xiaoling, 60, Doctor

"I come to the beach to swim every day in summer. I've been wearing facekini for two years. Swimming in the sea has such a good feeling. I'm satisfied with my whole body. It looks great. My friends don't judge me by my look because we're at the same level. I admire those who are good-looking, but I won't judge anyone. I'm very confident in my whole look today. "
Photographed by Heyson Du.
Wang Hong, 55, Retired

"I come here to swim every morning at 5:30. Swimming is kind of a very cool sport! I love to look bold and wild on the beach. This is actually my first day wearing facekini, I heard it can block sunshine and jellyfish. My favorite part of myself is my face, that’s why I wear facekini. I don't want to get sunburn. I'm very confident now. "
Photographed by Heyson Du.
Zhang Xiulan, 61, Retired

"My favorite part of my body is my arms. I'm confident with my look on the beach. I've been wearing facekinis for five years. It's very useful in protecting from UV and jellyfish. I love the sea. "
Photographed by Heyson Du.
Ge Hong, 57, Worker

"I love everything about the beach, the waves, the people, the sea. I think I'm in good shape in my age, and I'm very confident wearing this outfit today. I don't care if people judge me since I'm around 60. Happiness and health are the most important things to me. I've been wearing facekini swimming for five years. "
Photographed by Heyson Du.
Li Lizhen, 58, Factory manager

"I wear facekini from March to October when I swim, every year for five years. I'm quite used to wearing it, and I don't care any judgment. I love the mountains around the sea, here the scenes are beautiful. I'm pretty confident with my look today."
Photographed by Heyson Du.
Zhao Yin, 56, Accountant

"I'm very confident with my look and my body. Each and every part of me is good. I enjoy swimming in the sea. I swim at least 1,000 meters every day. I don't judge people and I don't care if they judge me. "
Photographed by Heyson Du.
Wang Guilan, 57, Retired

"I love the waves of the sea. I'm proud that I have muscles in my arms. Me and my friends, we don't judge each other, instead we appreciate and say good things to each other. I'm very confident with my look today."
Photographed by Heyson Du.
Sui Li, 47, General Manager of bicycle company

"I'm confident with my look on the beach. I love the scenes around me. My skin color is lighter than most of the others, I like it. I don't care too much about the judgment because I don't take it seriously."
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