To get tall is glorious!

I posted earlier about how height can be a major factor in one’s ability to land a dream job in China, and how this results in some terribly unfair hiring practices. Well, leave it to the practical Chinese to find a creative solution.

She’s an acting student. She sits in a wheelchair. He’s a business major. He relies on crutches to get around.

Each of them willingly had a doctor break their legs and insert steel pins into the bones just below their knees and above their ankles. The pins are attached to a bulky contraption that looks like a metal cage. For six months or so, they will wear this stretching device even though it delivers excruciating pain eased only by medication.

They dial the adjustment knobs daily, forcing the ends of the broken limbs to pull away from each other even as they heal. As new bone grows, the device forces it apart again, resulting in more new bone to fill the gap. Patients on the device typically gain about 3 inches in six months.

It may sound like medieval torture, but people who are determined to stand taller say it’s nothing short of a dream maker.

At about $6,000, the treatment is out of reach for the average Chinese urbanite, who makes just more than $1,100 a year. But for some with money, it’s a price they’re willing to pay. In this increasingly competitive society, height has emerged as one of the most visible criteria for upward mobility.

“I was not tall enough to apply to film school before,” said the 20-year-old acting student, who was accepted to the Beijing Film Academy after adding 3 inches to her 5-foot-1-inch frame. The school’s website says female acting department applicants must be at least 5 feet 3.

I want to understand the thinking behind such requirements, considering how many great actors and actresses are diminutive (like Dustin Hoffman and Linda Hunt). If anyone can explain how these restrictions benefit the general population, please, enlighten me.

The article explores China’s growing obsession with height, which is rather ironic, considering that the man who saved the country, Deng Xiaoping, practically qualified as a dwarf.

Via China Digital Times.

Little people can do great things. Why discriminate against them?

The Discussion: 10 Comments

It’s all in the diet. My parents are around 5’6″ and 5’4″ respectively. I am 6’0″. I blame public school lunches and possibly growth hormones in beef :P, I practically grew up on the stuff. Whoever started the public school lunch program is a great man. This may seem like an odd thing to say, but its a god send for children with working families who don’t always neccessarily have the time to get the proper nutrition they require. Even now, I still hunger for soggy floppy hamburgers with wrinkled pickles and some overly moist tater-tots. The stuff grows on you I swear!

April 1, 2005 @ 9:15 pm | Comment


Your fortunate, I grew up on a nutritious home cooked diet that was low in cattle crowth hormones and calcium and I ended up being below the average height for my race despite the year on year height increases brought by an American influenced diet.

Remember though, you might be 6.0 but I can still headbutt you in the groin.

There is this thing about image in China and where it is supposed to be able to get you. You see it in Shangahi where a lot of women carry parasols to stop them from getting a tan, and wearing makeup to make them look like they’re white.

I’ve also seen strechting machines advertized on the television that are supposed to make you taller.

Still, at least breast implants aren’t all the rage yet.

April 1, 2005 @ 10:41 pm | Comment

I remember reading a great article about the lengths (geddit?) women go to to increase their height in the Guardian. If you’re interested, it makes a rather excrutiating read; just read the first two paragraphs:

Kong Jing-wen has paid £5,700 to have both of her legs broken and stretched on a rack. The pretty college graduate is now lying in bed, clearly still in considerable pain three days after a doctor sawed through the flesh and bone below her knee to insert what looks an awful lot like knitting needles through the length of her tibiae.
These giant steel pins are connected by eight screws punched horizontally through her ankle and calf to a steel cage surrounding each leg. Once the bone starts to heal, these cages will act like a medieval torture device – each day over the next few months Kong will turn the screws a fraction and stretch her limbs more and more until she has grown by 8cm.


April 1, 2005 @ 11:12 pm | Comment

Still, at least breast implants aren’t all the rage yet.

Actually, I think breast implants and other forms of plastic surgeries are starting to really take off in China. It may not be as common place in China as it is in the US yet, but in a few years, it may get there.

April 1, 2005 @ 11:28 pm | Comment

Sounds pretty ghastly to me.

However the reality in urban China is that looks count, so I can understand the pressure to undertake even painful remedies. Is it so very different from having fat sucked out of your body, or your skin stretched tighly back? Or dental braces on a larger scale?

April 1, 2005 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

三等殘廢 (Class 3 Disability) was a term used by Chinese women to describe Chinese men that are below 170 cm or 5′ 7″.

April 2, 2005 @ 1:01 am | Comment

I agree with Jing. One of the reasons why the Dutch are the tallest people in Europe is that they traditionally consume vast amounts of protein-rich foods like milk and cheese. Even my manager, who is Indonesian-Chinese but was born and raised in Holland, towers over me. One day last year someone got bored and put a strip of paper on the wall and had everyone mark their height on it — and I learned that at 5′ 10″, I’m the third-shortest person in the office. Even one of the Dutch women is taller than me!

April 2, 2005 @ 2:59 am | Comment

Is it so very different from having fat sucked out of your body, or your skin stretched tighly back? Or dental braces on a larger scale?

No one’s criticising what these Chinese people are doing. I would do it myself if I were in their position (or at least I’d consider it). What I am questioning is why they are forced to go through this hell in the first place, breaking their own bones, putting wires into their bodies and undergoing months or years of excruciating pain. The responsibility lies with the fools, whoever they may be, who impose these idiotic rules. I hate discrimination and this is a great example. More powr to those who have come up with these ways to get around the hare-brained rules, and shame on the fuckers who impose them.

April 2, 2005 @ 3:38 pm | Comment

Painful stuff…wasn’t this technique originally developed by some Soviet doctor in the 70’s for the disabled? or was it for dwarfs?

And growth hormones? I’d hate to think what parents could be adding to their children’s diet in the pursuit of a competitive edge in height, among other things. A high protein diet can help you reach your full genetic potential in height, but it cannot overcome your genetic limitations. A typical Cantonese will never be as tall as a typical Northeasterner no matter how rich the diet. This is why most basketball players in China come from the North.

April 2, 2005 @ 6:11 pm | Comment

I though that it was calcium, not protein, that made you tall.

Protien builds muscles and hair, calcium builds the skeleton, right?

I blame growth hormones in cattle, and blame George Bush, I blame him for everything. Including canto-pop

April 3, 2005 @ 3:27 am | Comment

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