In her youth, psychic Karen C. Uchima discovered the ancient Chinese art of face reading while watching The World of Suzie Wong. It was during the scene in which a fortune-teller predicts Suzie’s trip to America by feeling the lumps on her head. Uchima thought: “If they can read heads, then they must be able to read faces in China.” Sure enough, she got her first lesson several years later at a party of psychics, when a woman brazenly pulled off Uchima’s pierced earrings and said, “You’ve got good money ears: you’ve got thick lobes.”

The Chinese used face reading, called xiangmian, as early as Confucius’s time to determine a person’s fate and later adapted the technique for medical diagnoses, practices that are still in use today. Pronounced vertical lines between the eyebrows, for instance, are supposed to reveal liver problems.

In a 1993 book on face reading called The Naked Face, author Lailan Young writes that the Romans revered face readers, but Queen Elizabeth I outlawed them in 16th-century England, ruling that each practitioner be “stripped naked from the middle upwards and openly whipped until his body be bloody.” In the 19th century, Charles Darwin and other scientists turned to physiognomy, as face reading is officially called, for clues on human behavior.

Uchima began compiling her own empirical data by studying the faces of millionaires. She chose millionaires because she wanted to be one, too. “People who have fame and fortune have certain traits.” People with big noses make money. Those with thin nostrils are frugal. Thick, arched eyebrows indicate long-lasting fame. Strong chins signify stamina and a drive for power.

“People who control their faces control their pocketbooks,” Uchima says. But Mother Nature need not determine one’s fate, so don’t give up. “Plastic surgery counts,” Uchima claims.

Uchima will conduct free three-minute face readings, which she says can reveal hidden talents and inspirations, on Saturday at 1 PM in the multipurpose room of the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State; call 747-4050 for more.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Jon Randolph.