Practitioners' News

Face Reading in Chinese Medicine

by John Stan | Apr 25, 2018

This article was written by Lillian Pearl Bridges


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Did you know that the face reveals who you are, how you feel now, how you have felt in the past and what life experiences have affected you?  The face is an amazing topographical map that reveals personality, past experiences, and even future potential. What’s even more important is that the face shows what is going on inside the body and in the mind, all of which change the landmarks - the shape and size of the features and the markings on the skin.

Face Reading is one of the original tools used for diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has a well-documented history that dates back thousands of years.  In the oldest text on acupuncture uncovered so far, Dr. Paul Unschuld of Germany found that the first page of this manuscript was the facial map and the second page contained a picture of the face with the acupuncture meridians. This map of the face had 150 numbers written on top of the different features, which indicated ages and showed that the ancients believed that people were capable of living up to 150 years old! But, as the stresses of modern living has taken a toll on potential longevity, a similar map of only 100 age positions is still in use today. The facial map is a fascinating look at how life experiences affect not only the face, but also the organs of the body and ultimately your health.

How does this happen? Well, I’m sure you have noticed that when people you know go through traumatic experiences, their faces shows the ravages of the sleepless nights, the many tears that have been shed or the weariness of the passing emotional storm. These signs are expected to go away because human beings have the ability to recover. But, the more trauma that occurs and the more emotions that are held in and are not released, the more the face marks. 

Your facial map is unique because you mark only the life experiences that are important to you. It actually doesn’t matter exactly what happened to you, it only matters how you feel about what happened to you. In fact, good stress marks as strongly as bad stress. It is possible to look at a person’s face and see how old he or she was when a trauma occurred and the kind of marking that occurs indicates the severity of what happened. 

Having been raised in a family of face readers who passed this information down through the generations, I was used to having my face examined on a regular basis.  Much concern was elicited when a mark appeared because of what had happened to me. It didn’t dawn on me until I was much older and had been trained for years to read faces how specific the information could be. It was the custom in my extended family to have any potentially serious boyfriend or girlfriend run the gauntlet of face readers for approval. Although potential suitors were warned, it was still a mystifying and enlightening experience. I will never forget the look on my ex-husband’s face the first time he met my face reading family. As my uncle answered the door, he stared intently at my then boyfriend’s face. He abruptly asked, “What happened to you when you were 24? It looks like an illness rather than an accident. Were you sick? What did you have?”  The look on his face was priceless. He had in fact been very ill at that age and was completely shocked by my uncle’s ability to see this. 

Let’s take a broad overview of the facial map. In general, each feature corresponds to a decade of a person’s life after childhood. Ears represent the first seven years of life, including the in-utero experience on one ear and the next seven years on the other. Men and women start counting on different ears because of the yin and yang of the face. All the ages down the center of the face are the same for both sexes and are therefore the most important, but the male and female maps are mirror reverse. The hairline indicates adolescence, the forehead is the twenties, the eyebrows and eyes are the thirties, the nose is the forties, the mouth is the fifties, the chin is the sixties and the jaw is the seventies. Then the face starts marking up the sides of the face until the age of 100. Markings are defined here as horizontal lines, indentations or any unusual coloration on a part of the face. Lines across the forehead, for example, are a sign of lessons learned in the 20’s. As a person goes through life, these collective experiences take a toll on the body as the emotional residue from the stress, can create overuse of the organ responsible for that emotion. For example, the lungs are responsible for the emotion of grief. When a person experiences a great deal of grief, not only will the face mark at the time the grief occurred, it will change the color of the skin and also create markings in the representative lung areas of the face, particularly the cheek area. If this grief is not processed and is repressed, it can eventually lead to a deficiency in the lung energy. These emotional and physical life experiences form the framework for our existence and shape who we are and help steer us towards where we are going. These lines should be worn as a badge of courage and are only problematic if they indicate unresolved issues and perpetuate patterns. However, I personally would rather talk to someone with these facial lines of life experience than someone who doesn’t have very many because they symbolize the wisdom acquired only through experience. These lines, although relatively permanent, can lessen in severity as the issues are processed.

Other kinds of lines are easier to make and also much easier to remove.  Horizontal and diagonal lines are made by the constant and repeated use of expression.  Remember your mother saying, “Don’t make that face – it will stay that way”?  Well, she was right. The facial skin’s elasticity weakens as the face is continuously used to express emotions. Over time, the skin tires and lines form specifically in the places that have been pulled and stretched. For example, the vertical lines between the eyebrows are in area associated with the liver and the emotion of the liver is anger. Lines in this area indicate the frequent expression of minor forms of anger such as impatience, irritability, annoyance and frustration. These are some of the easiest lines to create as so much of life is irritating and the pace of modern life is so fast. These lines are certainly not dangerous as the liver is not easily damaged by these forms of anger and it is an organ that regenerates easily. However, living in a state of constant anger is psychologically damaging and can also create problems in relationship. Removing these lines is not easy as it requires a conscious decision to become aware of every time the skin in this area is moved, understanding why squinting is occurring and changing the pattern of behavior that underlies the need to express these forms of anger. Meditation and other forms of relaxation are especially good for lessening and even removing these lines.

 Another set of lines that is very common is the lines around the mouth. This is the stomach area and is associated with nurturing. Lines here indicate that over nurturing of other people is occurring and there is a significant under nurturing of self.   These lines are very common in the helping professions and also people who are in caretaking roles. The remedy for these lines is luxury and pampering of oneself, preferably to the point of feeling guilty! The point here is that it is important to feel self-worth and to practice self-care so that people can fill themselves with self-love. 

Joy lines, seen in the corner of the eyes slanting upward are very positive wrinkles. They are often called Crow’s Feet. They are lines that indicate that the wearer knows how to laugh and smile a lot using the Duchenne’s Smile, which is a smile that involves the eyes. This particular smile has been shown to cause the release of endorphins, the body’s own natural painkiller and definitely makes life more enjoyable.  These are lines you don’t want to lose. Closely related are the lines going downward, which are sadness lines and when they go over the cheekbone indicate sorrow and if they go into the cheek area are a sign of grief. These are deeper emotions and therefore harder to minimize because they are harder to make. A person has to experience these emotions very deeply and release is therefore a longer process, but it is still possible. For wrinkles, there is a point of no return, where the skin will not regain the elasticity it once had and some lines seem to etch the face almost indelibly.

Some expression lines are so valuable that you would not want to lose them. In particular, there is a set of lines that radiate downward from the side of the nose to the sides of the mouth. These lines are called fa-ling lines or purpose lines.  Having these lines means you have a life purpose; faint lines show that you know you have a purpose but haven’t started living it fully, and no lines here is a sign that a purpose needs to be found. These lines are not considered significant until the 50’s when having a life purpose gives people a reason to live much longer. Therefore, if someone has these lines earlier, they will experience more fulfillment in their lives. It is never too late to find your path and these lines will tell you when you have found yours.

 Interestingly enough, this area is also associated with the colon and coloration here shows how the colon is functioning. The colon is an organ that determines what the body will keep and what it will remove and this area of the face can also be viewed in a strictly physical way. When the colon is stagnant, this area will be dark, with faint colors of purple to gray. If the colon is inflammatory, the area will be red and if the area is white, the colon is frozen.

Every part of the body has a corollary place on the face. This is how diagnosis is done from the face and many of the signs that appear showing organ function reveal problems in the organs long before medical tests confirm the diagnosis. For example, reading the sclera or whites of the eye will give a snapshot of current liver function.  When the liver is experiencing toxicity of any kind, the whites of the eyes will turn a yellow-green color known as jaundice. However, when blood tests reveal imbalanced liver enzymes, the liver will be in far worse shape than if the liver is treated at the first sign of dysfunction that the sclera manifests. It is important to check the fundamental strength of the organ by analyzing the strength of its vital related feature(s), which, with the case of the liver, are the eyebrows. 

Eyebrows are called “Leaves of the Tree” and the liver is part of the vibrational family or the element of Wood. When the eyebrows are thick, bushy, wide or long, this indicates that this person has a very strong liver. When the liver is strong, this person is better able to handle toxicity, including drinking alcohol or fighting a lot or participating in intense athletics. Smaller, finer, shorter or sparse eyebrow hairs indicate a mild constitutional deficiency or current liver weakness or may just indicate a gentler, more easy-going person. The shape and size of the eyebrows also reveal other fascinating personality traits as well. For example, arched eyebrows show an action orientation whereas flatter eyebrows show a more even expenditure of energy. Curved eyebrows belong to those who can handle difficult people well and they have long been called the “Courtesan’s Eyebrows” as the best courtesans had these eyebrows and were able to deftly handle the Emperor. However, when the eyebrows are shaved off and drawn in, they are given the slightly less flattering name of “Concubine’s Eyebrows”.  These belonged to the concubines who tried to use their wiles and wit to win favor, but in actuality were a sign of manipulation and a woman who was hiding her real temper.  It is interesting to note that tweezing eyebrows is called “Pruning the Tree”, which may imply that a mild suppression of anger, drive, passion or temper is still occurring today.

The face shows a remarkable amount of information in a relatively small space. We are all face readers as we evaluate faces every time we meet someone new or engage in conversation. Chinese Face Reading gives the benefit of thousands of years of observation, where minor differences in the shape and size of every feature were categorized, the various places on the face were correlated with the organs and every detail of the face was given importance. The most difficult aspect of face reading is combining the traits into a profile of a unique individual. We inherit many traits, but ultimately, each person is responsible for what shows on his or her face. Only you have the ability to control how you act and react and what you chose to express. So, the next time you feel like frowning, you might want to transform it into a smile. Or when life gives you a learning experience, it is truly a chance to grow and gain wisdom and your face will show it.  

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Check out Lillian's best-selling book Face Reading in Chinese Medicine  









Lillian Pearl Bridges is the world’s leading authority on Face Reading and Diagnosis. She is credited for bringing this body of ancient knowledge back to the field of Chinese Medicine and introducing it to Western Medicine and Business. She has nearly 30 years of experience in speaking and teaching to Complimentary and Allopathic Doctors, Acupuncturists and other Natural Health Practitioners, CEO’s and Executive Management Teams. She is the author of Face Reading in Chinese Medicine, a best seller in the genre. 

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