The Big Five: Which Face Shape Describes You?
It’s no coincidence that one of the greatest social media platforms invented is called ‘Facebook’. Your face, like it or not, tells a story – it’s essentially, and usually the first thing someone sees when he or she meets you for the first time. With most of our communication to others being non-verbal in various social settings, the face you present to everyone else is important. But, the question remains – have you ever wondered what your face says about you? If you answered, yes – keep reading!

The Big Five Face Shapes (Wood, Water, Metal, Fire, Earth)
Remember that visualisation and imagination are very important in Face Reading – don’t just memorise the face shapes, try to visualise what the Five Elements look like and how they inter-react. Imagine the shapes (What does a piece of Wood look like?) and features (What impression does a hunk of rock give you?). This will help you to not only remember the features of a particular face shape, but also help you determine which face shape that you’re engaging with in practice.

Where It All Began
During the days of the Imperial Dynasty, Face Reading (or Mian Xiang) was one of the sciences deployed by Chinese strategists and Imperial advisors in their role of providing guidance and strategic advice to the Emperors whom they served. For example, whenever an Emperor went off to meet a rival King or perhaps, had a foreign visitor or dignitary come to his court, his Imperial strategist would, using his Mian Xiang skills, be able to immediately size up this person and provide the Emperor with detailed insight and knowledge about the person – enabling the Emperor to determine what to say or not to say to that particular person.

Chinese Princess in traitional costume
The study of physiognomy (Mian Xiang) by Chinese Metaphysicians can be traced to the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 BC). (Photo:

Mian Xiang Defined
Mian which is Face and Xiang, which is physiognomy or appearance, is also known as the Chinese Art of Face Reading. It has a long and illustrious history as a science, having been developed since the time of Huang Di or the Yellow Emperor (2700 BC – 2150 BC). It is an art born out of the observation of the physical appearance of a person – shapes, lines, bone structure, features and even Qi colour of the face. At a high level of practice – movements, speech, gestures and little facial tics or expressions can be used to interpret a person’s character and nature.

Other Functions of Face Reading
Face Reading was also developed for the purposes of determining suitable candidates for Imperial positions. Because of under-developed bureaucratic and administrative structures, it was common for people to have inaccurate birth records or even not really know when they were born. This was especially the case if a person was born during a conflict or warring time, when chaos prevailed and proper time and dates of birth were not kept. The ability of the Chinese Astrologer to accurately forecast such a person’s character, nature and Destiny would be difficult.

Face Reading was also employed by mother-in-laws to ensure that their sons married wives who brought luck to the family and not bad fortune. Similarly, mother-in-laws would use it to scrutinise prospective son-in-laws to ensure they were truly wealthy (not just saying they were wealthy!) and would be able to take good care of their daughters – up till today, some mother-in-laws still practise this!

Text: Joey Yap / The Joey Yap Book Club 

Joey Yap is the founder of the Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics and Chief Consultant of the Joey Yap Consulting Group. He is the world’s foremost authority in Chinese Metaphysics and a prolific author of 162 books and counting. Visit for more.

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