PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 February, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 February, 1994, 12:00am

WE like people who look us straight in the eye and generally look up to people with strong jaws. A face can launch a thousand ships or be the route to a fortune. And deals can be won or lost by a single look.

These old sayings have more than a grain of truth in them, says author Lailan Young, whose latest book, The Naked Face: The Essential Guide to Reading Faces, tells you how to read the characters of the people you know and those you don't. Face reading is an art that has been practised by the Chinese for thousands of years. In the West it started with the ancient Greeks and included practitioners such as Aristotle and Plato. By the time of imperial Rome, it was an established profession.

Now it is making a comeback. Hong Kong magnates take the subject so seriously that face readers are asked to sit in on contract negotiations: if the face reader says 'don't sign', the contract is left on the table. On the other side of the world, French head-hunting agencies use the techniques contained in Ms Young's book to choose between candidates.

'Face reading works across all nations and all ethnic groups,' says Ms Young, who is half-Chinese. 'Every face in every race is made up of the same component parts and a reading is just the sum of those parts.

'Some Chinese, for example, have flatter and broader noses than Caucasians but among all Chinese there are some whose noses which are wider and flatter than average and some whose noses are smaller. You learn to take into account the racial differences.

'It's an art, not a science, and accuracy comes with practice and understanding - but once you've got the basics you can tell a lot about a person, if they're the jealous sort, intelligent or understanding, just by looking at them. And you can even see if they've got criminal tendencies.' Face reading is now being taken seriously in the most unlikely of places - including Britain's police headquarters, Scotland Yard. 'Charing Cross and Westminster Hospital Medical Schools in London are now working with the police to establish a facial identification centre, after having found that everyone's ears are unique,' says Ms Young.

'In a recent case, a bank robber was jailed after committing a crime 10? years earlier. He had been wearing a mask but the bank's video machine clearly recorded his ears. They found ear prints were as accurate as fingerprints and he was convicted.

'British criminals are now having pictures of their ears taken as well as having their fingerprints detailed.' BARONESS LYDIA DUNN Hong Kong's first female member of the House of Lords, member of the Executive Council, former member of Legco and former chairman of the Trade Development Council, reminded Ms Young of a picture of one of Picasso's mistresses - in the nicest possible way.

Nose: the nose runs under the forehead in one smooth sweep, like one of Picasso's profiles of his mistresses. This shows she is more canny than academically intelligent, with great reserves of common sense. It will be a rare person who puts one over on Lady Dunn.

Eyes: wide apart, coupled with a shallow bridge to the nose implies an ability to sum up any opposition and deal with it quickly and with verve.

Eyebrows: thin - she should beware of renal problems in later life.

Ears: high, bumpy inner circle (raised part inside ear) and thick lobes reveal that she is sexually highly motivated.

Mount: her smile is wide, with laughter lines creeping up past her nose to her eyes, demonstrating that she knows how to enjoy herself.

CHOW YUN-FATT The actor and heartthrob of millions may be a simple gangster when he is on screen, but his private persona is a lot more complicated. Watch out for the heart-shaped ear lobe.

Mouth: the right-hand, public side of his smile slants upwards, showing that he makes a lot of looking tough and cynical, almost as though he wants to be seen as less than trustworthy. But the left-hand, private side shows that he really has a nice character.

Teeth: wide-apart incisors - he's stubborn and dislikes being corrected by others.

Ears: wide ear notch and fleshy ear lobe show that not only is he generous, but he is seen to be generous.

Ear lobe: his left ear lobe is heart-shaped, an unusual formation generally indicating huge impatience and selfishness in love-making.

Chin: the bulbous ball of flesh in the centre of his chin represents an enormous sex-drive, perhaps off-setting his odd ear lobe.

RICHARD LI The son of Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong's richest magnate, this is the man who built up STAR TV when many had their doubts and then sold it for hundreds of millions to Rupert Murdoch when the doubts had disappeared. He should take care of his health in later life.

Eyes: somewhat watery and soft, giving the impression of occasional weakness offset by stubbornness and also implying something of the dandy, a touch foppish.

Eyebrows: grow down towards the face, revealing that he is at odds with his life.

Ears: a line from the edge of his ear to the helix indicates health problems. He should not live life to excess.

Ear notches: small, showing he is generous only to close friends and those he admires.

Ear lobes: go in straight to his cheeks, like President Bill Clinton's, implying aggression.

Mouth: the upper lip rises like a rabbit's, raising questions about his ability to commit himself in the long-term.

GORDON WU Mr Wu, who is pioneering the infrastructure development of southern China through Hopewell Holdings is a man of extraordinary power.

Face shape: Churchillian, square, showing that he does not bend under pressure but simply becomes tougher.

Eyebrows: the right eyebrow is short, denoting impatience. The left is untidy, denoting ideas - but not always good ideas.

Cheeks: round and firm - he will always look younger than his years.

Ear lobe: diagonal lines are forming along the lobes, revealing hypertension. He must watch his diet and avoid fatty foods.

Mouth: the centre of his top lip dips down, betraying an extraordinary sexual capacity. In this, he is almost identical to Prime Minister John Major. Unfortunately, his upper lip curls outwards, indicating he has great difficulty in expressing himself emotionally.

Jaw: firm and wide, again indicative of a man of action.

MICHAEL JACKSON Reading Michael Jackson's face proved to be one of Lailan Young's greatest challenges. The problem was to find parts of his face that hadn't been altered and to discover what he may have unwittingly heightened in his personality through plastic surgery.

Ears: unaltered. Big inner circle (raised part inside ear) implies enormous determination to succeed. Height of inner circle also shows resolution, while his big tragus (lump above ear lobe) means he wants to get his own way. Wide ear notch (dip at bottom of ear) shows he is very generous to those he likes and trusts.

Ear lobes: unaltered. Very small lobes imply that he finds it very difficult to gain full sexual satisfaction.

Nostrils: apparently altered. Before: innovative, liking a challenge. After: attention-getter, liable to bear grudges.

Chin: cleft seems to have been deepened. The more defined and deeper the cleft, the more conceited the character.

Upper lip: curled, implying a deeply sexual nature.

Forehead: smooth and rounded, showing a clear mind with a high IQ.

Cheekbones and cheeks: apparently altered. High cheekbones and sunken cheeks are the ideal of feminine beauty but will lead to fast ageing.

Nose: too altered to analyse.

DAME KIRI TE KANAWA Opera diva Dame Kiri te Kanawa has one of the strongest, yet most vulnerable of faces - and one of the most interesting.

Eyes: hard and alert even when smiling. Implies someone who is intolerant of fools or incompetents. White under left pupil shows great sensitivity and a tendency to be hurt more than she would like to admit.

Eyelids: very heavy, showing that she is physically demanding in all ways and expects others to match her high energy level.

Forehead: high and wide, implying intelligence and sensitivity. Worry furrows between eyebrows show great powers of concentration.

Ear lobes: join straight to her cheeks, revealing aggression and an ability to admit mistakes.

Ear notches: generosity restricted to those she admires and regards as proper friends.

Mouth: corners have indents, like Lady Thatcher, which shows that she does not like to depend on others.

Chin: large and determined - she wants to get her own way.

PRINCESS DIANA The Prince of Wales could have done well to have learned a little from Diana's face before inviting her to join the Royal Family.

Forehead: smooth, flat and narrow, showing she is not intellectually gifted. Indented pulse points suggest she has problems remembering figures.

Eyes: one larger than the other, showing lack of concentration. Left eye elliptical, showing a tendency towards jealousy.

Ears: narrow notch like Dame Kiri's, revealing that she does not give time or money unless it is to a worthy cause or to true friends.

Nose: convex bump on nose denotes friendliness but bend in nose shows evasiveness.

Chin: again like Dame Kiri's, revealing a powerful will.

Mouth: lips of roughly equal size, showing a moderate sexual side, both in giving and receiving.

FACES TO AVOID * Joined eyebrows, heavy upper eyelids, elliptical eyes - jealousy.

* Watery gaze, deep set narrow eyes, crooked mouth - untrustworthy.

* Narrow philtrum (lines between nostrils and mouth) - low sex drive.

* Small ear lobes - sexually insatiable.

* Thin lips, thin angular nose, pointed chin and high cheekbones - cold personality.

* Nostrils slant upwards to nose tip - impatient FRIENDLY FACES * Straight nostrils - patient.

* Wide philtrum - strong sex drive.

* Wide, high, smooth forehead - highly intelligent * Distance between eyebrows to tip of nose longer than eyebrows to hairline or nose tip to bottom of chin - sociable.

READING SMILES * A genuine smile is with the eyes as well as the mouth.

* If you've asked someone to do something they don't want to do and they smile, they really don't want to do it.

* A genuine laugh moves the tummy muscles as well as the face.

MONEY MAKERS * Big rather than small noses.

* Strong, protruding chins * Large, thick, fleshy ear lobes SPENDTHRIFTS * Receding chins.

* Short, flat bumpy noses.

* Sharp pointed inner corners to their eyes.

HONESTY * A mole at the outer corner of an eye * Big, meaty cheeks * A steady gaze THEM AND US These gestures could land you in hot water if you use them in the wrong countries.

* Patting the heading or ruffling hair is a friendly gesture to a child in the West but a degrading insult in Thailand, Burma, Fiji, Indonesia and Singapore.

* Nodding means yes - except in India, Bangladesh, much of Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Sri Lanka where it means exactly the opposite.

* Shaking the head means no - or yes in the countries above.

* Staring at someone is rude in Britain - but absolutely normal in China, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

* Winking in Europe means we share a secret - but in Hong Kong it is very rude indeed.

* Tapping the nose means you are in the know - except in Italy, where it means take care.

* Making a circular motion with your forefinger around the temple isn't rude in South America, the Netherlands or South Africa - there it means you are wanted on the telephone.

* Sticking your tongue out goes down well in Tibet - it's a friendly greeting.