First time for Chinese debutantes

Updated: 2013-01-15 14:26

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai (China Daily)

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First time for Chinese debutantes

Liang Zhouyang, fifth generation descendant of famous scholar Liang Qichao, was one of the belles of the ball. Li Zheng / For China Daily

For the first time, China has publicly shown off its own debutantes.

Two Chinese girls were among 14 young women who attended the second Shanghai International Debutante Ball on Saturday night.

The event attracted hundreds of formally dressed guests, who flew in from around the globe.

"Last year, I had to explain to everyone how I tried and failed to find mainland Chinese women as potential debutantes. This year, I found two," says the ball's founder and organizer, Zhou Caici, who's also known as Vivian Chow Wong.

At 10:30 pm, as an opera singer crooned to piano accompaniment, 14 white-couture-attired women from different parts of the world filed out of their Rolls-Royces adorned with diamond tiaras. Each was received by a male escort.

The two Chinese women are Liang Zhouyang and Pei Yunshuo. Liang is the fifth generation descendant of Liang Qichao (1873-1929), one of the most influential reformists of the early Chinese Republic, while Pei is the daughter of a well-off trader.

Zhou says the women are the two most ideal candidates "not only for debutante balls but also to represent the prototype of Chinese high society".

First time for Chinese debutantes

Perfect form for a tea ceremony 

Last year, Zhou - the youngest daughter of Chinese Peking Opera master Zhou Xinfang and an active socialite in Hong Kong, London and her hometown Shanghai - defined the perfect debutante as someone "every mother would like her son to marry but not every son could get".

"Who wouldn't be impressed (by Liang Zhouyang) with her famous paternal great-grandfather, great-grandmother and famous maternal great-grandfather?" (They all were celebrated academics.)

"Angela (Pei Yunshuo) - she is the kind of girl we Cantonese say comes from a stable and dependable family with a good education and good manners," says Zhou, who discovered the two women through "friend of friends" out of many of candidates.

The event is a good platform for the debutantes to make friends.

Liang says:"I think it helps to expand my circle - not in a general sense but help me meet people who share similar backgrounds and mutual understanding."

The 29-year-old Beijing native is studying international relations in Columbia University after four years in finance.

After spending a day doing all the fittings and photo shoots before the ball with the other 13 women, Liang tells China Daily she has "connected" with them.

First time for Chinese debutantes

A movie that moves 
Pei, who calls herself "a lousy user of social networks like Twitter and Weibo", says the event has enabled her to make friends. The 24-year-old is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

"Essentially, the ball is a party," Zhou says.

"It's fun. I can see happiness on the staffers' faces. Ultimately, I think we should promote anything that brings happiness."

Globally, the century-old tradition that originated from European aristocracy is transforming into high-class charity events with seats costing guests tens of thousands of dollars.

But Zhou's event is funded by her and sponsors, and is invitation-only. None of the proceeds go to charity.

"By restricting the event to 'by invitation only', I can make sure all the guests are decent," Zhou says.

She declines to reveal how much she spent on the event, but during a recent television interview, she said she would never sacrifice "elegance" or "style" to make the ball profitable.