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Home > Chinese Medicine Basics > Mien Shiang


By Patrician McCarthy, President, The Mien Shiang Institute

The age-old Taoist practice of Mien Shiang is an art and a science that means literally face (mien) reading (shiang). It is an accurate means of self-discovery, and a great way to help us understand others. As the ancient Taoists said, the face records the past, reflects the present, and forecasts the future.

What we look for when we read a face are the characteristics associated with the sizes and shapes and positions of each facial feature, as well as the lines, shadings and marking that appear on the face. Simply by looking at someone’s face, we can determine his or her character, personality, health, wealth potential, social standing, and longevity.

Our Faces Accurately Record Our Chronological Passages Of Life
Certain facial traits are inherited from our parents and our ancestors, while others are acquired. These acquired lines, shadings and shapes should be celebrated as ‘proof’ that we have learned our life lessons. If we don’t do our life’s work at the proper times, we can suffer emotionally, physically, and spiritually. So, it’s good to see those markings of passage appear on our faces. People don’t value wisdom if they don’t value aging.

The Face Is a Puzzle With Perfect Pieces

Every part of the face reveals something significant. There are five to ten unique face shapes, the two sides of the face, the three primary zones, and the twelve principal features.

Each of the 12 principal facial features, the

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

tells something specific about the person.

Learning to read the face shapes, the two different sides, the significance of the dominant zone, and all of the features together, is an intricate art.

Here’s Looking At You

Mien Shiang is not about reading facial expressions. Many people have good poker faces; they are experts at covering up their feelings by controlling their expressions. A good bluffer can easily change a look or a movement to fool others. But shapes, positions, lines, shadows, and other facial markings tell the truth. They are foolproof signs, if you know how to read them.

Because Mien Shiang is such a vast, extensive study that can take years to learn - for example, we could easily analyze 30 different types of eyebrows or 47 types of mouths - let’s start off with the bigger picture.

The Two Sides of the Face:

- the left side represents the true, inner, private self.
- the right side represents the outer, public self.

Suppose you meet someone who has a great smile, but you notice that the right side of their mouth goes up. That is probably someone who is “putting on a good face” - chances are they don’t feel, inside, as happy as they look, on the outside. See? Already, you can read a face!

Who Uses Mien Shiang?

We all use Mien Shiang, all the time.
For instance . . .
. . . when you changed seats because the well-groomed man next to you had narrow, mean eyes,
. . . when you chose the employer with the easy smile over the other who had a tight, thin mouth,
. . . when you advised a friend to see a doctor because you noticed unusually dark circles under his eyes,
. . . when you hired the lesser experienced person for the job because he had the more trusting face,
. . . you were reading faces. You were practicing Mien Shian.

We all have instinctive responses and reactions to people, but Mien Shiang is more than a gut level reaction. Mien Shiang recognizes that every facial shape, size, feature and position has a significant meaning. Each line, shading and marking reveals a little bit more to the whole face reading.

In Part I of this series, we established that the facial features each have distinct characteristics regarding character, personality, health, longevity, wealth, and social status.

Let us first define each of the 12 major features’ general characteristics:

· ears - risk taking ability, longevity
· hairline - socialization
· forehead - parents’ influence
· brow bones - control
· eyebrows - passion, temper, pride
· eyes - receptivity
· cheekbones - authority
· nose - ego, power, leadership, wealth
· lips and mouth - personality, sexuality
· chin - character, will
· jaw - determination

Now look in the mirror and see how much risk-taking ability you have.
The bigger your ears, the bigger your risks; the smaller your ears, the more cautious you probably are.

Are your eyebrows dark and thick? If so, it is quite feasible that you have a lot of passion and anger. What about your eyes? The more open your eyes, the more open your heart. Do you have high, prominent cheekbones? If you do, you are likely to be authoritative. (Some might even call you bossy!) What if your left eyebrow is thicker than the other? Remembering that the right side of the face represents the outer, public self and the left side represents the inner, private self, you can see plainly that your face reveals that you are apt to feel more anger (inside) than you show (on the outside). Take a closer look at your ears. Are they the same size? The same shape? Even the same height? It’s not unusual for our ‘matching features’ to be different, though most of us do not notice such differences, on ourselves or on others, unless we are looking for them. If, indeed, your right ear is bigger, or more prominent in shape or position, it means that you appear to take more risks than you actually do take.
Interestingly, if our right side features are so much more distinct, or prominent, than the left features, we will sometimes ‘act out’ a certain behavior even though it may go against our inner nature. For instance, some people who have a more prominent right ear find that they take more risks than they actually feel comfortable taking.

Keep looking in the mirror. See if you can establish how much character and will you have, how determined you are, how much ego you have, and how outgoing you are. Do your features match your feelings? Do you think others see you as you really are?

The Marks of Wisdom and What They Mean

As we age our face changes. We get wrinkles and lines, dark spots and shadings. And though we tend to resent them, these signs of experience are good because they are recording our chronological passages of life. They are visual proof that we have been feeling the emotions of our experiences, struggling through our difficult times and learning the lessons of life. We can celebrate them as marks of wisdom that come with age.

Most markings appear on an area of the face that represents the age that the emotional experience first occurred.

The Face Represents a Chronological Map of Experiences:

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

Facial lines and markings generally appear first on the forehead and work their way down to the bottom of the chin over the years. Take a close look at your own face, at your parents’, your children’s, siblings’, friends’ and co-workers’ faces and see if their marks of passage correspond with their ages.

Using Mien Shiang we read the face by interpreting the appearance of the lines and marks. We look for placement, size, shape, depth, color and shading of each line and marking. Lines between the eyes usually appear in the early to mid 30s and are frequently the first lines we notice on our own faces as well as on others. In Mien Shiang we call this area the Seat of the Stamp, or Yin Tong, and issues with father or the dominant parental figure are marked here.

Yin Tong Markings

- a single, vertical line can mean that one has difficulty getting or staying appropriately angry.

- a single, but stronger and deeper, vertical line indicates estrangement from father

- 2 vertical lines means one tends to anger easily

- 3 or more vertical lines suggest the ability to stand up for oneself and use anger appropriately.

- horizontal lines also represent separation from father, or son, or one’s own yang (male) side, as well as women who were never allowed to get angry

- a dark mark, or discoloration, indicates that one is backing off from their power.

The mouth is another area we tend to notice. Though the predominant
lines and markings generally appear in one’s 50s, they often occur as early as one’s 20s. Pursing the lips creates lots of tiny lines cutting into the lips, both top and bottom. Those lines show all the hurts that have been held on to, that have never been forgotten. They belong to the person who has ‘done all the right things’ but hasn’t been ‘rewarded’ for her ‘goodness.’

There are so many, many more lines that appear on the face that reveal our experiences or tendencies. Like the Grief Line than runs down the center or the cheek, or the Fa Ling Lines that show whether or not we are on our Golden Path. The telling lines around the eyes that warn us of an inclination for unfaithfulness, or reveal the pain of unshed tears. As you notice the lines and markings on your own face, as well as on others’, remember . . .

- the right side of the face presents the outer, public self, and that it represents the mother’s influence

- the left side of the face presents the inner, private self, and that it represents the father’s influence.

And remember the significant characteristic and trait that belong to each facial feature. Now look in the mirror and combine what Mien Shian has taught you, so far, about each side of the face, each of the 12 major facial features, and the different lines and markings and their placements. Does Mien Shian help piece together the puzzle of who you really are?

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