Beauty was important for the common woman, too. Who knows when she might be brought before the emperor, along with thousands of other women, as a candidate for marriage? In 1621, Ming emperor Xizing had five thousand beauties delivered to his palace and examined them all before choosing his bride. Ancient Chinese history is also peppered with heroic women who were famously beautiful: the patriot Xishi, who saved her people by seducing a warring king; Zhaojun, who married a Hun in order to maintain regional tranquility; Yang Yuhuan, who sacrificed her life to halt a mutiny. These heroines personify the Chinese belief that beauty is more than a pleasant arrangement of features on a face. Beauty must encompass character. We find this concept of feminine beauty expressed in the Confucian text, The Lienuszhuan, a collection of stories about great historical women. In it, the author Liu Xiang (79-8BCE) emphasizes the three-part development of virtue, talent and beauty. His text established the lienu, or the exemplary women tradition, which provided guidance for generations to come.
How Does it Work?
Practitioners of facial rejuvenation base their treatments on the ancient Chinese five-element theory, which allows them to understand their patients in terms of five energetic archetypes (wood, fire, earth, metal, water). In this system, internal organs as well as other features are represented by the five elements. A wood person, for instance, will be energized to a large extent by the liver, and will display certain character/emotional attributes related to it. She will also manifest a preponderance of liver Qi in the shape of her body, her hands, head and facial features, in her skin tone and susceptibility to certain ailments.
As a rejuvenation treatment starts, the six pulses are taken, the tongue is read and needles are applied--not only on the face but on arms, legs, hands, feet and torso. A facial rejuvenation treatment involves the whole body, right down to the energetic level. In her book, Face Reading in Chinese Medicine (Churchill Livingstone, Pub., 2003), Lillian Bridges looks at the many facial features that Oriental Medicine practitioners evaluate to understand a person's energetic constitution, elements that will help in making a diagnosis and formulating a treatment. To create a five-element profile, she writes, the practitioner must "evaluate each feature of a group individually and then look at the entire set of features to determine the strength or deficiency." She notes there are two kinds of faces, the one you were born with and the one you create. Simply erasing the past, she contends, is not possible or even wise; a person without lines is either lacking emotion or doesn't express it. Rather than wipe (or stretch) the slate clean, it is wiser to tonify organs and reprogram oneself emotionally so that unsavory habitual expressions become less frequent.
In addition to providing a whole-body treatment, the acupuncturist can work to remove fine lines and soften deeper ones. Wrinkles, however, are not necessarily Bridges' nemesis. I think lines can be very attractive, she writes, "and show that you've lived life."