Note to the world: My daughter is not a "china doll." If I hear one more person refer to her as such I'm gonna get REALLY rude.
"China Doll" refers to the material used to make dolls, most of which are caucasian in appearance. It has nothing to do with Chinese ethnicity. The real meaning of "china doll" is a fragile, porcelain doll, ie, made from china (the material). From about.com: China dolls were produced from approximately the late 1830s through the early 1900s (until about 1930) with the greatest number produced from the 1850s through the 1890s. Many millions of china dolls were produced, mostly in Germany, during this period...China dolls are made of glazed bisque (porcelain) which is generally left white (not tinted).
If strangers in the supermarket see nothing else about my daughter than the fact that she is cute, they will also see that she is anything but fragile and porcelain.
I'm aware that "china doll" has other connotations, but I desperately wish to clue people into the fact that none of them are flattering. "China doll" connotes a hypersexual and submissive Asian woman, in contrast to the "dragon lady" stereotype which, well, connotes a hypersexual and evil Asian woman.
Imagine adopting a Black child and having someone come up and tell you what an "adorable little sambo" he is! "What a darling tar baby!" You'd probably punch that person in the face, wouldn't you? That's how I feel when some random stranger expects me to be complimented by her belief that my daughter is a China Doll. Maybe it's generational; I don't know. All I know is that NO ONE I know would ever say "china doll" in reference to a human person who is someone's child, any more than they'd compliment Bill Cosby on his Sambo children.
I'm thinking perhaps some (well-meaning?) people haven't gotten the memo, so please pass it along: It's 2006. "China Doll" is offensive. Say she's cute, say she's delicate. Better yet, say she's strong and smart and funny. But NEVER use the C-D word around me, and more importantly, around HER. She understands what you're saying these days, so I'm getting ready to politely but firmly deal with random strangers who want to keep pointing out her "otherness." I'm proud she's Chinese, she knows she was born in China, and I hope she always loves that fact. But it would really make my day if compliments didn't come to her as a result of her ethnicity. After all, I hope she's going to be intelligent and talented, but I also hope random strangers in grocery stores won't call her a Smart Jew.