Mien Shiang - Chinese Face ReadingMien Shiang - Chinese Face Reading

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Mien shiang is an ancient Taoist practice that literally means face (mien) reading (shiang). Mien shiang allows us to observe many features of the face and determine certain personality traits about the person being observed. The ancient Taoists thought that the past was recorded on the face, so, if you know what to look for, you can tell a lot about a person and what they have been through by simply looking at their face.

The art of mien shiang should not be confused with reading people's facial expressions however, as those can be controlled as we all know when we refer to someone who has a good "poker face." Mien shiang can tell about a person's personality and things they have gone through in their lives by looking at physical structures, sizes and placements like the length of the nose, depth of the eyes and prominence of cheekbones as well as lines, shadings and other markings. By looking at the face we can determine a person's character, personality, health, ambition and longevity and even wealth potential. That is a lot, without having to say a word!

What Your Face Says About You

Every part of the face reveals something about you, if you know what to look for. The face records all of the things that we have gone through in our lives. Our life lessons, our struggles, and our joys. Every part of the face accumulates marks and lines which means that we have learned the appropriate life lessons at the appropriate times, and that means that we have accumulated the wisdom that comes with age. So, don't try to hide those lines, celebrate them! You have earned them.

Mien shiang breaks the face up into different parts. There are face shapes, two sides of the face, three primary zones and twelve facial features. The facial features are:

  • ears
  • hairline
  • forehead
  • brow bones
  • eyebrows
  • eyes
  • cheeks
  • nose
  • lips
  • mouth
  • chin
  • jaw

Because mien shiang is an intricate art that can take years to master we will just talk about some of the basics, but knowing only a few things can really help you to gather information about someone and their personality.

When it comes to the two sides of the face, the left side represents their true, inner self and is the father's influence. The right side is the outward part that we show to the world, and represents the mother's influence. Because very few faces are completely symmetrical this can help you to see what someone may be projecting on the outside may not be what they are feeling on the inside. For example, if someone has a lovely smile, but you notice that it goes up on the right side and not so much on the left side. This means that this person is expressing a happy exterior but is not feeling it on the inside.

We all use mien shiang all the time, often without realizing it. Think about when you were on the bus and changed seats because the person next to you had narrow, mean eyes. You sat down with the new coworker at lunch because they had a friendly smile, and you told a friend to see a doctor because they had a sallow, yellow look to their skin. You were practicing mien shiang. Of course, we all have developed instincts over many thousands of years and this is a large part of our “gut” reactions to people, but mien shiang is more than this. It can be used to gather information in great detail, if you really study it. Everything about the face, its shape, size, features, lines, spots and textures tell us something. Once you learn a little about mien shiang you will never look at another face the same again!

Let's look at the twelve major facial features and what they tell us about a person's character, personality, health, longevity, social status and wealth potential.

  • ears - ability to take risks, longevity
  • hairline - socialization
  • forehead - influence of parents
  • brow bones - control
  • eyebrows - passion, pride, temper
  • eyes - receptivity
  • cheekbones - authority
  • nose - ego, power, leadership, wealth
  • lips & mouth - personality, sexuality
  • chin - character & will
  • jaw - determination

Now, look in the mirror and see how much you like to take risks. The bigger your ears, the more risks you are willing to take. The smaller your ears, the more cautious you are. Look at your eyes. The more open your eyes, the more open your heart. Are your eyebrows thick and dark? Then you may be very passionate with a bit of a temper! And what if one of your ears is bigger than the other? remember that the left side of the face represents our inner self and the right is the way we express ourselves to the world. If your right ear is bigger you may take risks that you do not truly want to be taking to either impress someone or not seem timid. Interestingly, if the features on the right side are more prominent or distinct, then we tend to act in a way that is contrary to our inner nature. Keep looking in the mirror. How authoritative are you? How well do you do in social situations? Are you a risk taker? How passionate or controlled are you? Do your features portray an accurate picture of who you are?

Other markings besides these physical structures also have a story to tell. As we age our faces change, and the way our faces tell that story is an important part of mien shiang. Different parts, or zones of the face record things at different stages in our lives. And these marks are important, as they are the visual proof that we have felt the feelings associated with our experiences in each of the stages of life. Most markings on the face appear on the area of the face at the age when the experience or emotion occurred. The face is literally a chronological map of our life experiences.

  • rim of the left ear - conception to early childhood
  • rim of the right ear - mid childhood to adolescence
  • hairline to eyebrows - adolescence through the 20's
  • eye area - mid to late 30's
  • nose - 40's
  • mouth area - 50's
  • chin - 60's
  • jaw - 70's and beyond

Lines and markings on the face usually start appearing on the forehead and gradually make their way down as we age. If you look at the people around you, of all ages, see where the marks and lines are and if they correspond to their ages. When observing these marks, we are looking at depth, size, placement and colour. These variations tell us a great deal about the person and what they have been through in their lives. There are some places that are quite noticeable on most people, like the lines between the eyebrows, lines around the mouth and around the eyes. The space between the middle of the eyebrows is called Yin Tang, and is also an acupuncture point. We tend to see lines develop here in the early to mid-thirties and they are usually the first lines we notice on our own faces as well as on others. This part of the face represents issues with the father or the dominant parental figure. Here is a list of significant markings in this area…

  • a single, vertical line means that one has difficulty getting or staying angry when needed
  • a single, but stronger and deeper vertical line indicates estrangement from the father
  • 2 vertical lines means one tends to anger easily
  • 3 or more vertical lines suggest that the ability to stand up for oneself and use anger appropriately
  • horizontal lines also represent separation from one’s father, or son, or one’s own male or yang side, as well as women who were never allowed to get angry
  • a dark mark or discolouration indicates that one is backing away from their own power

The mouth is another area we tend to notice, although lines don't usually appear there until we are in our 50's, although they can appear as early as our 20's. Pursing the lips together creates all kinds of little lines around the top and bottom lip. These lines represent all the hurts that we have experienced, the ones that have been held on to and not let go. There are so many lines on the face that describe our life experiences. Like the grief lines that run down the centre of the cheek, lines around the eyes that can warn of a tendency to be unfaithful, or reveal that we have tears that we have held on to and are still unshed.

Now look in the mirror and see what you can tell about your own life and all your experiences. What does your face say about you?


The Face Reader - Patrician McCarthy

About the Author:

Emma is the founder and publisher of Chinese Medicine Living, a website devoted to sharing traditional Chinese wisdom, and helping others to apply it to living a healthy lifestyle in the modern world.

Since becoming a licensed acupuncture physician in 2006, she has worked in a number of multidisciplinary clinics developing her skills and technique while working with other health professionals, including medical doctors.

Emma has lived and worked in Canada, the U.S., Panama, and China, where she had the opportunity to immerse herself in Chinese culture. This helped her to gain a deeper understanding of the medicine she practices. She also studied martial arts for 11 years, and uses Qi Gong and Tai Chi techniques in her practice to help her patients rebalance, thus aiding in their healing.

Today she specializes in gynaecology, paediatrics, gerontology and treating emotional issues and mood disorders through her own practice, Blue Buddha Acupuncture Sarasota.

She is a contributor to Acupuncture.com, Chinese Medicine Digital Magazine and Qi Encyclopedia.

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