The Facial Map

By Lillian Bridges

Face Reading is one of the most ancient tools used for diagnosis in Chinese Medicine. Because palpation of the body was not a common practice, especially when treating women, the face became one of the easiest places to access the signs of internal organ function.  In the oldest manuscript of acupuncture ever discovered so far, Dr. Paul Unschuld of Germany found that the first page of this manuscript was a facial map containing 150 age positions while the second page was a diagram of the facial meridians.  This same facial map is still in use today and is used to find the ages when trauma occurred that still affects current psychological and physical health.  This map can best be described as a topographical representation of life experience.  Because the face shows a person’s past, an individual’s facial map can be used as a predictive tool for possible upcoming events, possible illnesses and even for the most likely age of death.  Fortune tellers in China actively used this map to foretell the future and its use in became so popularized that the average Chinese person could tell what kind of chin or earlobes would lead to “Old Age Luck.”  However, the use of the facial map in Chinese Medicine began to recede and some of the deeper and more esoteric meanings of the markings could be found only in veiled references throughout the ancient texts.

My Chinese family has a strong lineage as practicing face readers and somehow, the use of the facial map as a tool for determining psychological and physical trauma and as a predictive tool for future potential illnesses and life purpose was maintained in a relatively pure form.  It therefore came as a surprise when I started teaching face reading for Chinese Medicine that more practitioners were not using the facial map or face reading as diagnostic tools.  So how can the facial map be used by acupuncturists?

The numbers on the face represent age according the Chinese system.  This means that you are considered to be one year old when you are born since the in-utero experience is considered such a significant formative time period.  This time period can be found on the ear at the juncture where the top and bottom of the ear join together and for 1/7 of the ear going up the rim.  Every year thereafter until the age of 7 (Chinese age) has a designated place and section of the ear around the rim running down to the lobe.  Men start counting on the left ear and women on the right due to the Yin/Yang of the face.  The later years of childhood are on the opposite ear until the Chinese age of 14.  The childhood markings are considered the most important. Then the map moves to the front of the face with adolescence marking in the hairline, the 20’s in the forehead, the 30’s on the eyebrows and eyes, the 40’s on the nose and cheekbones, the 50’s around the mouth, the 60’s on the chin and the 70’s on the sides of the jaw and onward.  Only the markings down the center of the face, which are part of the Ren and Du meridians, are the same in both men and women.  These markings are usually seen as horizontal lines and are significant in that they represent changes in the course of Qi in someone’s life.  It must be noted that the more recent facial maps are usually drawn with only 100 age positions as it is unlikely that modern humans will live much past that age although in ancient China it was considered likely that some people could live very long lives if they lived right!

These facial markings on the map are actually signs of how much jing has been used from the stress caused by trauma.  The more markings there are, the more suffering a person has experienced.  But, some stress is necessary to propel growth and having some earlier suffering is thought to build character and toughness that helps people face their futures so theses markings are all bad.  In fact, many people only find their way or purpose in life by having experienced hardship in the past.  But, in terms of Chinese Medicine, recognizing that numerous markings on the face show jing use can be helpful in determining the amount of constitutional strength remaining.  Jing, of course, is so crucial for health that finding ways to reduce further usage makes a difference in terms of longevity.  And, finding the signs that indicate what kind of Qi should be made to buffer the use of jing is also extremely helpful.

Therefore, the two most important markings to look for are horizontal line(s) on the bridge of the nose between the eyes and across the philtrum or groove between the nose and the mouth.  The first marking on the nose is a minor spleen/pancreas area of the face immediately below a liver area.  Any line here is a sign of diminishing jing, which usually shows up by the age of 40.  The action indicated by the presence of this line is the need to use food to make Qi.  The stronger the line or the more numerous the lines, the more this transformative action is needed.  Of course, this is an age when many people become interested in dieting, but that is contraindicated by the presence of any line(s) here.

The line that occurs across the philtrum is a sign of the need to transform fertility into creativity.  This is an area that represents the reproductive organs, but is also immediately below the nostrils with their connection to the lungs.  In terms of the facial map, it is the age of 50.  A line or lines here indicate the need to breathe deeply to make Qi to buffer the use of jing.  The markings can also be considered signs of infertility and often menopause or androgen pause. However, on a deeper level, lines here have the meaning of needing to free oneself from the biological drives of youth and transform them into the liberation that comes from personal creativity.  Creativity then is seen as an enhancement for longevity due to the right use of jing as one gets older.

There are many other markings whose meanings are too numerous to mention here.  But, when you start looking at the face in terms of the facial map, you will be able to see a person’s life lived so far.  Because there is so much other information on the face, including personality traits and health indicators, it may be easy to overlook some very crucial markings, like the lines indicating the type of Qi needed to be made to keep from overusing our constitutional strength.  In a world full of stress and strain, it is helpful to know what our bodies need from the signs on our faces.  And by paying attention to some small signs like the jing markers, there will be great benefit.   Eating better, higher quality and appropriate food or breathing deeper, exhaling fully and becoming creative are actually activities that can be put into immediate practice that will ensure a much healthier and longer future life.


Lillian Pearl Bridges is the founder of The Lotus Institute, Inc.
The second edition of her book- ‘Face Reading in Chinese Medicine’
is due out in Fall of 2012. To find out more about her work
go to www.thelotusinstitute.com.