Xiang mian (also found in Wade-Giles as hsiang mien) is the ancient Chinese art of divining an individual's character from his or her facial structure.

In xiang mian, the contours and shape of your face are read as a map of your inner landscape. Similar in theory to the popular 18th century practice of physiognomy, the face is an open book to practitioners of xiang mian, who still practice in China (primarily as medical diagnosticians). From the broad strokes of the forehead to the poetic angles of the zygotic arches - every bone and surface plane speaks.

Fundamental character typing in xiang mian is based on the relative proportions of the three main components of the face:

Try this at home!

Find a picture of yourself looking straight at the camera. Lay a piece of paper over the picture and trace the outline of your face.

Don't try this in a mirror unless you have the iron discipline to remain still while you look - the angle at which you're tilting your head to try and get a better gander at your jaw width will affect the results.

Alternatively, ask someone else to sketch the outline of your face. Someone who likes you, it goes without saying. Or at least someone objective. A random person off the street is probably ideal as long as they're not speaking in tongues or muttering imprecations at the sky and earth.

The shape you see in the sketch is going to be close in form to one of the following seven types (but rounder and sans the 90 degree angles):

  1. Square
  2. Triangle
  3. Truncated pyramid (width greatest at the bottom, tapers to top)
  4. Bucket (upside-down truncated pyramid)
  5. Wide rectangle (face wider than length)
  6. Diamond (width of cheek greater than the other two)
  7. Tall rectangle (the three widths are basically equal, and the face is longer than it is wide)

Once you have settled on the number correlating to the shape of your face, hold it fast in your mind. It is your key to discovering which of...

The Sevenfold Faces of Xiang Mian!

...belongs to you!

  1. Face of...Iron! Stubborn much? Got rocks? Yes, you do. You're hard as nails, but less likely to rust. Also a born leader and politician, although you might not get the chance to show it, considering how damn difficult to get along with you can be. On the plus side, you're a very dedicated, stable, loyal person who can always be depended upon - if for nothing else than to be true to yourself.

  2. Visage of... Fire! You're one sexy beast, you. Passionate, bright and shiny, lit up from the inside. Quick wit (just don't whip that thing around too freely, you could hurt someone with it). Life of the party, vivacious. Also very sensitive to initial conditions, and quick to react.

  3. Countenance of...Earth! You're practical. Very practical. Too practical to take any of this seriously. But while you're here, you might be interested to hear that you're also: determined, resilient, persistent, patient, and always get your way in the end.

  4. Form of... a Bucket! Which is fine, because you need something to carry all your wonderful traits around in, and the head is a great place to start. You're brilliant, strong, balanced, generous, and creative. Downside? Sometimes you slosh around a little bit. There's a tendency to vacillate between ecstasy and gloom.

  5. Head like a brick Wall! The strong, silent type. Guarded, living life in the moment, uncommunicative, strong. But behind the wall... You're also a dreamer who is deeply affected by all you observe from your psychic aerie.

  6. Skull of Jade! Destined for a life blessed by both poetry and domesticity... Mysticism, elegance, and beauty predominate. They are balanced by your caring, sense of duty, and endurance. What to watch out for? Being so sharp that you cut yourself, and being too possessive. Gollum!

  7. Noggin of Tree-like Qualities! I'm a little afraid to go to China to meet their Chinese trees, given the fact that tree-type heads are considered aggressive. However, this type is also thought of as being courageous, assertive, nurturing, independent, and mature.


Tiny print standard disclaimer about how nonrational systems of judging self and others can be highly entertaining but probably nothing to make life-altering decisions over.

Further reading:

Amazing Face Reading: An Illustrated Encyclopedia for Reading Faces, by Mac Fulter (a jury consultant and physiognomy wonk).

Who Are You? 101 Ways of Seeing Yourself, by Malcolm Godwin

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