The Eyes Have It: Yin And Yang Sanpaku

April 13, 2023 | Samantha Henman

The Eyes Have It: Yin And Yang Sanpaku

They say that the eyes are windows to the soul. It’s also no surprise that the eyes can predict if someone is suffering. Beyond the red eyes that indicate crying, think of the yellowed whites, or sclera, of someone experiencing jaundice. But is it also possible that the eyes could point to something even more sinister—or predict one’s fate? 

The term “sanpaku” comes from Japan, and translates to “three whites”. In so-called “normal” eyes, the whites are only visible on the sides of the iris. But in sanpaku eyes, the whites are also visible above or below. Each position has a different meaning. The theory comes from Japanese and Chinese face reading, but was popularized in the West by George Ohsawa, who is also known for creating the macrobiotic diet. 

The Yin And Yang

According to Ohsawa, when the whites are visible below the iris, it indicates poor health and potential addiction problems—be it to drugs, alcohol, or even sugar and grains. This is called “yin” sanpaku. Those who have it may end up the victim of accidents or violence. 

On the other side is “yang” sanpaku, where the whites show above the iris. The meaning of this position is far more ominous. Ohsawa claims it's a sign of mental illness—and that those who display it may be psychotic, or capable of murder. As with yin sanpaku, these people may end up in violent situations as well.

Sanpaku Eyes

Proponents of the theory have pointed to the dire fates of various celebrities and historical figures to back up their claims. Ohsawa himself claimed that President John F Kennedy, pictured bottom, would experience terrible danger. Others point to the fate of Princess Diana, top. She often had the whites of her eyes show in pictures. Evidence of those with yang sanpaku eyes is far more rare—but the most often-cited example is that of Charles Manson, pictured center. 

And what does science have to say about it? Well, there are numerous health conditions that could affect the appearance of the eyes. These include aging, side effects of cosmetic surgery, and thyroid conditions. While the eyes can indicate overall health, they’re certainly not able to predict that someone will suffer a horrific fate or become a criminal. Basically, it’s just another compelling, but ultimately dubious bit of pseudoscience. 

Sources: 1, 2

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