OBJECTIVE: In this study, the optical data of tongue color of different syndromes in primary hepatic carcinoma (PHC) were detected by optical spectrum colorimetry, and the chromaticity of tongue color was compared and analyzed. The tongue color characteristics of different syndromes in PHC and the relationship between different syndromes and tongue color were also investigated.METHODS: Tongue color data from 133 eligible PHC patients were collected by optical spectrum colorimetry and the patients were divided into 4 syndrome groups according to their clinical features. The syndrome groups were liver depression and spleen deficiency (LDSD), accumulation of damp-heat (ADH), deficiency of liver and kidney yin (DLKY), and qi stagnation and blood stasis (QSBS). The variation characteristics of chromaticity coordinates, dominant wavelength, excitation purity and the distribution in the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) LAB uniform color space were measured. At the same time, the differences of overall chromatism, clarity, chroma, saturation and hue were also calculated and analyzed.RESULTS: PHC patients in different syndrome groups exhibited differences in chromaticity coordinates. The dominant wavelength of QSBS was distinctly different from that of the other 3 syndromes. Excitation purity in the syndromes of LDSD, ADH and DLKY showed gradual increases (P＜0.01). Different syndromes in the CIE LAB color three-dimensional space showed differences in tongue color distribution areas. The CIE hue-angle value of QSBS was negative, and different from that of the other 3 syndromes (P＜0.01). CIE chroma in the syndromes of LDSD, ADH and DLKY showed gradual increases (P＜0.01), the same as excitation purity. In the comparison of chromatism, tongue color variations in different syndromes were quantified by human observation.CONCLUSION: This study shows that tongue color diagnosis according to the syndrome classifications of traditional Chinese medicine can be quantified with optical spectrum colorimetry technology. Different syndromes in PHC exhibit distinct chromatisms of tongue color through the calculation and analysis of chromaticity parameters of CIE, combined with colorimetric system and CIE LAB color space, and these are consistent with the characteristics of clinical tongue color. Applying optical spectrum colorimetry technology to tongue color differentiation has the potential to serve as a reference point in standardizing traditional Chinese medicine syndrome classification in PHC.