The future’s written all over your face
Believers in Chinese physiognomy say facial features determine your fortunes in life, and improving your lot is easier than you might think.
Born and raised in a large Chinese family, 32-year-old Hong has always been familiar with the traditions of her ancestors. Her mother strictly follows every ritual and ceremony. Besides all the important customs, they are also strong believers in Chinese physiognomy, otherwise known as the art of face reading.
“Everyone in my family has had their face read by a ngo heng [face reader] and feng shui master,” Ms Hong explained. “Whatever he says, my mum believes him. She is willing to adjust everything in response to his readings.”
When Ms Hong turned 15, her mother took her to see the family’s ngo heng master so he could predict her future according to her facial features. “Your daughter will marry a really rich man, but only if she has a money receiving face,” the master told them.
Ms Hong faced the prospect of undergoing plastic surgery or having filler injections to give her a “fuller face” and help secure her future. But she refused to change her face, telling her mother she didn’t want it to look any rounder than it already was, and insisting a face reader would not decide her future.
Like many in the new generation, she felt the ngo heng’s advice was nothing more than superstition. “I won’t change myself for anything, not even for all the money in the world,” she said.
Ms Hong got on with her life. She was smart and did well academically, but when it came to love, luck had deserted her. “I always ended up with abusive, controlling money-suckers,” she said.
The young woman became lonely and started to feel she would never find true love. When she turned 28, her mother took her back to see the same ngo heng master. Once again, he told her she would find love, luck and money if she made her face rounder.
“I figured there was no harm in trying,” Ms Hong said. “I got fillers injected into my nose and face to make it more like what the master called a ‘money receiving face’. It was not permanent anyway.”
Within three months she was at one of her business dinners and found the man of her dreams. They spent a year getting to know each other before deciding to marry and start a family together. As a middle-class woman, Ms Hong had always worked hard for her money. She now no longer has to worry about financial issues, since her husband is wealthy enough to offer her a comfortable life.
Though she doesn’t have to work any more, she has made it her job to keep her family happy. “I don’t know what it was about changing my appearance that changed my fate. All I know is that it worked for me,” Ms Hong said.
A VALUABLE SKILL
After a lifetime of being conned, Kanyaphat Duangphueak decided enough was enough. She had been scammed by her best friends and her employees, and was left bankrupt with no money or possessions at the age of 40.
Depressed and desperate, Ms Kanyaphat vowed she would never be fooled again. She had always been bad at reading people, which made her vulnerable to various tricks over the years. She decided to fix her weakness by leaving Thailand and going to China to learn about face reading and feng shui.
After a year of studying, Ms Kanyaphat was becoming more confident of her ability to read people. She continued to hone her ngo heng and feng shui skills by offering her help to anyone interested. Eventually, she opened her own shop providing face readings for people and feng shui for houses and businesses.
Ms Kanyaphat is now 53. She lives in Hua Hin, but travels around Thailand when people call on her feng shui expertise to build a new house or rearrange their furniture.
Companies also hire her to assist their recruitment teams. She can tell whether a candidate will be right for a job from the look of their face.
THE ART OF NGO HENG
Ms Kanyaphat explained the criteria for ngo heng, or face reading, differ for men and women. For men, the features that indicate success are the forehead, mouth, chin and the voice. The forehead determines intelligence, for example. “Men with high foreheads tend to be smart and successful people,” she said.
The mouth and lips determine affluence. For men, the ideal lips to attract money are thick. The lower lip should also be bigger and thicker than the upper. A round chin indicates a person will become a tao gae, or rich entrepreneur. A good voice can signify leadership in the future: the louder and deeper the better.
For women, the important features are the forehead, eyebrows, nose, mouth, eyes and the general shape of the face. A nose with a high bridge tends to attract money and lovers. Women with these noses usually end up with rich husbands and are good at saving money.
As with men, a woman’s forehead also represents intelligence. It is recommended women keep their hair away from their foreheads because that area is the “sky” of the female face. It should stay open to receive positive energy.
The upper and lower lips of women should be equally matched, while their eyebrows are considered the crown of the face. They shouldn’t be too low, but perfectly in line with the eyes. Eyebrows can determine how much real estate and property a person will own.
Women’s eyes should be a bit pointy in the corners. Pointy eyes indicate a person who can’t be easily fooled. The perfect face shape for a woman is round and healthy. It can indicate wealth and the ability to land the perfect husband.
Many people believe face reading is just another version of fortune telling. But the principles behind ngo heng are based on statistics compiled in China more than 1,000 years ago.
Chanoknard “Qipao” Tiarasirisyn, a 31-year-old ngo heng master based in Bangkok, told Spectrum that face reading was used in the past to decide military ranks.
In ancient China, conscription involved not only finding physically healthy recruits but also looking at their facial features to decide what rank they would be given.
Ngo heng masters kept statistics on their readings for hundreds of years, allowing them to refine their art, she said.
For the old Chinese ngo heng, the part of a person’s face from their forehead down to their eyebrows represents life from birth until 30 years old. Good eyebrows are thick and pointy, showing prestige, Ms Chanoknard said.
The middle part of the face represents life from age 30 to 60. Clear eyes with even white space on either side of the iris are ideal and indicate a good personality.
Ears signal how successful a person will become in the middle part of their life. The top of the ears should be in line with the eyebrows, and the ear lobes should be big and fat. Ms Chanoknard said the ideal nose is a “lion nose”, with a high bridge, but not too wide. Those lucky enough to have such a nose display leadership qualities like a lion.
The lower part of the face from the nose down determines life from age 60 until death. If a person has big lips, they are more likely to be rich in their old age.
Previous experience, education and relevant skills are the main criteria that usually decide whether a prospective candidate gets a job. But many Thai companies also use physiognomy as part of their recruitment strategy.
One reliable source told Spectrum that a number of leading Thai companies recruit people based on ngo heng, especially at the executive level.
“As well as using ngo heng, they also analyse people’s fingerprints. It’s all about putting the right man in the right job,” the source said.
Others believe that using physiognomy to screen potential staff is a step too far. “We focus on people’s skills, knowledge and capability,” said Thikamporn Khamkaen, business manager at international recruitment company Experis.
Ms Thikamporn specialises in finding senior executives for many large companies, and said candidates must meet a range of criteria.
“We are always looking for experienced and highly competent candidates," she said.
"Some companies want us to recruit people with a certain personality type to fill a specific position, but we never recruit anyone based on ngo heng. The shape of the nose, face or eyes can’t tell you how good someone is going to be when it comes to work.”
None of Ms Thikamporn’s clients believe in using physiognomy for recruitment, but some do ask successful candidates to meet with Chinese sin sae masters to select the most auspicious day and hour for the new executive’s first day at work.
UNDER THE KNIFE
When Ms Kanyaphat reads someone’s face, she only recommends they change their facial features if they truly believe in ngo heng. She doesn’t offer referrals to plastic surgeons or provide filler injections, because she has no medical knowledge. All she can do is to give her impartial opinion.
Chongdee Aojanepong, an assistant professor at the Siriraj Hospital faculty of medicine, Mahidol University, is one of the most active members of the Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons of Thailand. He told Spectrum many people ask him to adjust their looks based on the recommendations of face readers.
“Every month I have one to two patients ask for plastic surgery based on what they heard from a Chinese face reader,” Dr Chongdee said.
“Some tasks are possible such as eyelid, nose or chin surgery. But there are other near impossible requests to reshape facial bones and noses completely.”
Dr Chongdee urged people to consult certified surgeons when they are considering plastic surgery, since many use do-it-yourself filler injections, which are cheap but dangerous if administered incorrectly.
“I personally don’t believe ngo heng can determine a person’s life, but if that is what makes my patients feel happy about themselves, then I am more than happy to comply,” Dr Chongdee said.
Ms Chanoknard, the Bangkok-based ngo heng master, has her own solution. She offers a unique technique to adjust a person’s features without surgery. She calls it “face patting” and is famous for providing the one-of-a-kind service.
Customers come to her shop and have their face read. They then decide whether to have the additional “face patting” service after the initial consultation.
If they go ahead, Ms Chanoknard will use a repeated patting motion to work on uplifting and reshaping the customer’s face with her hands. Sessions last up to 40 minutes. The results are enough to satisfy many people, especially those afraid of the doctor’s knife.
Nine, a 50-year-old business woman, believes ngo heng changed her life. She told Spectrum that she had plastic surgery on her nose at the age of 30. Before that, she could never earn or save much money. But after the operation, she became wealthier. She now considers herself to be rich.
Several years ago, 42-year-old beauty clinic executive Aof had a silicone implant put into his nose because he wanted to look like a Korean pop star. But his life did not run smoothly afterwards. He lost money and hit stumbling blocks at work, no matter what he did.
On his 37th birthday, he went out with friends to celebrate at a nightclub. A man asked Aof’s friend whether Aof had had a nose job. The friend told Aof to go and talk to the man himself, thinking he was interested in him.
“He asked me if I had my nose done and I said yes. Then he recommended that I reverse it, since it had ruined my good ngo heng,” Aof said.
He didn’t have the implant removed until a year later. As soon as it was gone, he was promoted and started earning more money than he imagined possible. “Now I am a strong believer,” Aof said.
Kate, 34, has decided to get nose surgery soon, but is still deliberating whether to go for a shape that suits her or follow her mother’s advice for optimal ngo heng. Her mother has suggested she get a “money receiving nose”, though it may not be as pretty as the other option.
LAW OF ATTRACTION
After running her face reading business for four years, Ms Chanoknard has realised that ngo heng is only part of the equation when it comes to a person’s fortunes.
“Whether you are rich or successful is all up to you,” she said. “You may improve your facial features, but that will only help you 50% of the way, the rest is up to you to decide how to put your good ngo heng to work.”
Kate plans to go through with the surgery eventually. She doesn’t want to upset her mother, so might meet her halfway, to make sure they’re both happy with how her nose turns out.
“At the end of the day, I am the owner of my nose, my life and my future, so the decision is mine,” Kate explained. “But there’s nothing wrong with taking advice that could improve my fortunes.”
Though ngo heng is her main source of income, Ms Kanyaphat doesn’t believe face reading should rule anyone’s life. She had fillers injected into her face and believes it brought her luck, money and a good husband. But more than that, she believes in the law of attraction.
“It is very simple to explain. When you are more beautiful, you become more confident. When you become confident, you tend to attract positive energy around you and become successful,” she said.
“Surgery may not be right for everyone. If you don’t have enough money, try to change your mind and your attitude. You might be surprised by the good luck that comes your way when you really believe.”
SLAP IN THE FACE: Chanoknard ‘Qipao’ Tiarasirisyn offers a unique ‘patting’ service to adjust peoples’ facial features and boost their luck without surgery.
Facing up to fate
A broad and open forehead is a sign of intelligence, while thick and pointy eyebrows show a person is destined for prestige.
Clear eyes with even white space on either side of the iris are the ideal, and indicate a good personality. Eyes that are pointy in the corners signify a person who can’t be easily fooled.
Ears show how successful a person will become in the middle part of their life. The top of the ears should be in line with the eyebrows, and the ear lobes should be big and fat.
The ideal nose is a “lion nose”, with a high bridge, but not too wide. Those lucky enough to have such a nose are blessed with leadership qualities. For women, a nose with a high bridge attracts money and lovers.
If a person has big lips, they are more likely to be rich. For men, the lower lip should be bigger than the upper. The upper and lower lips of women should be equally matched.
A round chin indicates a person will become a rich entrepreneur. The best face shape for a woman is round and healthy. It can indicate wealth and the ability to find the perfect husband.