The Eyes Have It: The Sanpaku Eye Superstition

Even though we still don’t know a whole lot about how the human body works, we’re still doing a lot better than we used to. Throughout history, in various cultures, humans have held some pretty weird claims about the human body.

Ancient Greeks speculated that female fetuses gestated in one side of the womb because the temperature was more suitable. I’m glad we’ve held on to a lot of Greek philosophy, but happier still that we’ve ditched their beliefs about biology.

And while not quite as weird as lefty-fetuses, I recently learned about a strange Japanese superstition about the human body. It’s called sanpaku (三白), and it will tell you your fate based on your eyes.

What is sanpaku? Literally translated, it means “three whites,” which refers to how you can divide up an eye into pieces, with the whites taking up three of the four segments. Sanpaku is when you can see the white of somebody’s eye either above or below the iris.

Normally, that’s a pretty unremarkable thing that you might not even be able to pick up on. But according to one Japanese superstition, sanpaku might be a good indicator of your fate.

This superstition really took off in the west during the 60s when Japanese author George Osawa began predicting the deaths of famous American figures (Marilyn Monroe, JFK) based on their eyes. Since then, people have speculated about the connection between sanpaku and one’s fate.

If you buy into the superstition, then it really depend whether the whites of the eye are visible above or below.

Below

If you have white visible at the bottom of your eyes, then look out — the world is out to get you. This condition, supposedly means that you’re in danger from the outside world.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at examples from a small sampling of celebrities!

Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson sports whites below his irises, and was recently jilted by his girlfriend and co-star, Kristen Stewart. JFK also had sanpaku at the bottom of his eyes and, well . . . let’s just say that Robert Pattinson got off easy.

Above

Conversely, if you can see whites at the top of your eyes, then you might want to take a deep breath and calm down a bit. While whites below the eyes supposedly means that the outside world is a danger to you, above the eyes means that the inside world is a danger to you — i.e., you’re unable to control your emotions and it leads you to do terrible, terrible things.

Cult leader Charles Manson has sanpaku above his eyes, and I think that it’s safe to say that he does not exhibit the best self-control. (Although I suppose that it take incredible self-control to carve a swastika into your forehead.)

The Critics

Skeptical? Understandable; after all, can’t your eyes look sanpaku depending on how you tilt your head or roll your eyes? It doesn’t help that this sort of fortune-telling seems to be more popular in the west than in its culture of origin.

Not to mention that people seem to disagree what sanpaku actually means — the symptoms I gave above are only a sampling of the alleged symptoms and results of sanpaku.

Regardless of its basis in fact, like horoscopes, blood types, and other superstitions, people still enjoy reading other’s fortunes. Next time you find yourself drifting while somebody is talking, gaze into their eyes and figure out if they’re destined for an early demise or a potential psychopath.


Thanks to David for emailing this in!

Header photo by jim simonson

  • http://www.facebook.com/KonnichiwaMika Briony Dunbar

    So I’m in danger from the outside world, and I’m a danger to myself and everyone around me? I can’t win!

  • Pepper_the_Sgt

    Clearly the best course of action is to simply have no eyes at all. Nothing bad can happen then, apart from not having eyes.

  • DAVIDPD

    Thanks Hashi.

  • Cat

    What about me then? I have no space under or over my iris, since my iris is bigger than normal. Do I escape both inside and outside dangers, or does it mean that I get them both? Better be careful.

  • ジョサイア

    Until you walk into a hole from blindness…

  • missimis

    People who white above their iris are either extremely tall, or hey like to look down on people, might be their megalomaniac -> mad. People who have the white below their iris are either very small or always look up. So much bad already happened to them, that they duck and try to escape more bad by making themselves smaller…. ^^

  • pete

    That’s weird i have neither too… im all good then?

  • averygoodgame10

    they’re*
    I was thinking that if you have white above your eyes, then you might tilt your head back, maybe restricting blood flow to a certain part of the brain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001887233580 Nicole Jones

    i can only see the whites on the sides of my iris. what does that mean?

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    Nonsense. I’ve gone eyeless for years and I’ve never seen a single one of these holes you speak of.

  • simplyshiny

    I KNEW the world was out to get me! this proves my point to everyone who ever doubted me

  • Pepper_the_Sgt

    Well you’re fine from outside dangers and inside dangers. So it probably means you’re screwed metaphysically. I hear that’s rough.

  • http://twitter.com/shollum Shollum

    Sanpaku is probably the most accurate fortune telling type thing that isn’t actual magic. Facial expressions (especially around the eyes) convey important information to other humans. If you can see visible whites above the eyes, the person you’re looking at is probably extremely hyper or excited and possibly insane or extremely edgy at the moment (due to nearly being killed and having an adrenaline high or something similar). This person isn’t likely to be mentally stable and could be dangerous to themselves or others.
    Normally, the top eyelid stays near the top of the iris. When extremely excited (like during an adrenaline high or similar high states like those seen in insane individuals), the eyelids pull back and the pupils dilate in order to see as clearly as possible during whatever ordeal they are in.

    If you can see the whites below, then that person has probably been through something extremely physically and mentally taxing recently. It’s less of a prediction and more of a side-effect. JFK was president of the United States of America, this position has caused even the youngest office takers to become old within only a short time (take Obama as a good current example).

    This isn’t always true though. Some people just look like that. For example, I generally have a low-lidded expression (maybe more of a partial squint since I have light sensitive eyes which is abnormal for people with my eye color. Maybe I’m just weird) that makes people think I’m bored even when I’m not. I’ve even been told it makes me look like I’m calmly contemplating someones murder. Obviously I’m not a serial killer or perpetually bored, so these kinds of things aren’t always accurate, but they are much better judges than people give them credit for (there are even lie-detecting technologies that take advantage of this).

    Sorry for the long post, but I thought it was interesting enough to share.

  • ジョサイア

    You’re lucky! :/

  • Anny Figueira

    I can’t see the white below nor above in my eyes o_o

    My iris is just too big and covers all of my eyes height. What does that mean? lol

  • ジョサイア

    Oh, I just got the joke there. O.o

  • Emi

    Same here. Perhaps we are the fortunate ones. =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kate-Rasmussen/100001026451962 Kate Rasmussen

    So… what happens if your relaxed lids show neither white on top or white on bottom. The largest part of the white of my eye is the outside. I mean on my right eye the largest part is the right and the left the left. What the heck does that mean?

  • http://twitter.com/charmoyl charmoyl

    I would like to get my eyes read. I don’t believe all of this fortune telling stuff, but I have always thought that eyes reveal a lot about a person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JenTheDestroyer Jen Grasby

    I don’t have white below or above. My eyes aren’t wide enough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnnVandenBroeck Ann Van Den Broeck

    “If you have white visible at the bottom of your eyes, then look out — the world is out to get you.”

    Guess I’m in trouble :P I have them even looking straight ahead of me. Gonna get eye removal surgery now it’s the only solution!

  • grevyturty

    Why in God’s name would anyone care what Japanese retarded morons think about anything? Superstitious, racist weirdos is all that “culture” ever produces.

  • http://twitter.com/ZombiePrepNet Zombie Prep Network

    Actually there is something to sanpaku, but not as you described it. The reason is that it can show up in people under extreme stress or under the influence of certain drugs due to the effect on the optic nerve.

  • misty10

    I read about this years ago and on Father’s day my son in law was here. He was quiet and I noticed the whites of his eyes were showing below his iris. He had lost a lot of weight and I didn’t think too much about it. Last night, he had a heart attack and died. He was 52, so maybe there is something to it.

  • nicrat

    don’t shoot until you see the sanpaku of their eyes

  • Yadi Alamin

    This is a perfect example of someone who knows nothing about eastern medicine. Sanpaku is a diagnostic TOOL, not a complete assessment. There would have to be other confirmations on the body, face, pulses and tongue to say anything definitive. No mythology, you just lack experience, skill and a proper teacher. Thanks.

  • Funruffian

    I know a woman who has a teenage son with Sanpaku eyes revealing the sclera both on top and bottom of his eyes. This kid also has ADHD with ODD ( Oppositional Defiant Disorder). He exhibits some of the most vile and repulsive behavior. He possesses scores of bad characteristics: combative, lazy, unmotivated, abusive, dishonest, harried, wasteful, unreliable, sloppy, evil, insecure, depressed, irresponsible, inconsiderate, infantile, vulgar, rude, untrustworthy, violent, spoiled, and other negative traits. What is especially disturbing about this freak is that he weighs nearly 300 lbs. and he is only 14. His violent outbursts are explosive and with reckless abandon.
    What is also disturbing is that his mother always chooses to indulge his gluttonous and grasping desires. She knows that he is unstable mentally, but due to her Christian beliefs she thinks prayer can help the situation. She lies to doctors by minimiZing his behavior. A medication was prescribed for his condition, but he often refuses or forgets to take them. It is hard for her to straighten him out and force him to adhere to his treatment due to his size.
    She has inquired about sending him to a boarding school, because he wreaks so much havoc causing her distress and grief.