Every Chinese student will know 美 měi, 美麗 měilì,
or 漂亮 piàoliàng all mean 'pretty'
or 'beautiful'. 美 and 漂亮 may be used to
describe a wide variety of things from flowers to handwriting
and are not specific. Yet Chinese has a huge number of of
adjectives that describe only female attributes.
嬋娟 Chánjuān is an adjective that refers only
to the loveliness of women (as a noun, it refers poetically to the moon).
嫻雅 Xiányǎ described an elegant and
refined woman; 婀娜 ēnuó and 娉婷 pīngtíng
both describe one with
graceful bearing or demeanour; 嫵媚 wǔmèi describes a charming
woman. 苗條 Miáotiáo meas slender or slim,
旖旎 yǐnǐ means 'charming and gentle',
婉約 wǎnyuē means 'graceful and restrained';
姿色 zīsè refers only to physical beauty.
嫣 yān means handsome or beautiful and although it may apply
to both sexes, it is usually used to describe women;
is a winsome smile.
There is a bevy of words that begin with 嬌 jiāo
(tender and charming):
嬌滴滴 jiāodīdī affectedly sweet (as in a teenage girl trying to be cute)
嬌媚 jiāomèi sweet and charming
嬌豔 jiāoyàn delicate and beautiful (also describes flowers)
姬 jī was a complimentary name for a beautiful woman
in ancient times, but later came to mean an imperial concubine
and in modern times describes any female entertainer
(such as a singer).
The parts of a woman's body also have poetic names:
娥眉 éméi delicate eyebrows
(or euphemistically the entire woman),
杏眼 xìngyǎn almond eyes
纖腰 xiānyāo slender waist.
櫻唇 yīngchún cherry lips
Chinese men don't rate their women out of ten, but use a
subtler five point scale:
她很漂亮。 tā hěn piàoliàng She is very beautiful means 'She is a ravishing beauty'
她很可愛。 tā hěn kě'ài She is very loveable means 'She is quite pretty'
她很愛國。 tā hěn àiguó She is very patriotic means 'She is a bit plain'
她很守規矩。 tā hěn shǒu guījù She is very law-abiding means 'Maybe with a paper bag'
她的字很漂亮。 tā de zì hěn piàoliàng She has beautiful handwriting means 'I think I'll run away screaming'