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June 22, 2024

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Judging a book by its cover: Your face is the window to your health

SINCE time immemorial, people have been itching to know what the future has in store for them, leading some to seek ways to predict misfortune and pursue better outcomes.

Fortune-telling gambits, such as astromancy, astrology, pendulum reading, spirit seances, reading tea leaves, tarot cards, palm reading, Chi-Chi sticks and horoscopes, are part of the obsession to divine what lies ahead.

One interesting but very popular fortune-telling method among the Chinese is called xiangmian (相面), meaning “face reading.”

A Chinese fortune teller of physiognomy will employ various techniques and measurements to study a person’s face or may even compare a client’s facial structure to that of an animal to predict personality and career path.

Although people often say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” face reading is widely applied in various aspects of people’s life — job interviews, show business auditions and blind dates.

For instance, in matchmaking, a young man with big bright eyes, thick black hair, a high straight nose, full forehead, square chin, large ears and broad mouth is usually considered charming.

Meanwhile, men will look at a girl not just for a pretty face, but also for wangfu xiang (旺夫相), or the so-called “lucky face,” which is said to signify that she may bring good fortune in a future marriage. If her face is symmetrically balanced, a girl is considered well-aligned to attract prosperity. This has almost become a kind of mantra among rich families.

Probably because of its great popularity, face reading also found its way into traditional Chinese medicine. But when traditional Chinese medicine practitioners study the face of a patient, they don’t pay much attention to the facial structure but rather to complexion.

As a key method to diagnose diseases, traditional Chinese medicine doctors inspect changes of five colors — green, red, yellow, white and black — and link them to yin and yang and the Five Elements, the basic concepts in the Chinese medicine.

For example, the “Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon,” the oldest text of traditional Chinese medicine compiled more than 2,300 years ago, has numerous references to facial diagnostic signs and their relationship with internal organs.

In Chapter 49 of its second volume, the “Canon” says that when the five complexions are used to determine the function of organs, a greenish hue represents the liver, red signifies the heart, white for the lungs, yellow for the spleen and black for the kidneys.

In terms of diagnosis, green and black are associated with pain, yellow and red with heat, and white with cold.

The “Canon” also explains wuzang waihua (五脏外华), or the luster of the five zang organs. It says that the luster of the heart is displayed in the face; the luster of the lungs is displayed in the skin hair; the luster of the spleen is displayed in the lips; the luster of the liver is displayed in the nails; and the luster of the kidneys is displayed in the hair.

Therefore, it states in Chapter 17 of its first volume that sparkling eyes and five nice complexions are often the external manifestation of one’s healthy visceral organs.

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners usually agree that, in most circumstances, individuals may also use facial diagnostic methods themselves to understand signals coming from their bodies and can take precautionary steps to prevent diseases from developing.

So, remember, every time you look into a mirror, you should remind yourself that your face is the window to your health.


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