The telling of fortunes has been an integral part of Chinese superstition and cultural beliefs since time immemorial. It is a highly respected practice, whose practitioners are relegated to the equivalent roles in western society of management consultants and psychotherapists.
Many major business decisions are made with the specific input of a fortune teller, and for the Chinese fortune-telling is a social event, somewhat like going shopping or dining out.
Modern China and its fortunetellers have had their ups and downs, as do all relationships, whether good or bad. The Communist Party for years saw the fading art form as a sign of “backwardness,” and yet traditional fortune-tellers thrive in today’s China although their role is something other than mystical.
One newspaper from a decade ago warned that “Chinese Scientists are Against Fortune-Telling” and the inclusive article cited a survey, which indicated that 1 out of every 3 persons in China believed in fortune-telling.
The commentary concluded with the admonition that “those who make money by telling fortunes should be punished according to the law.”
Fortune-telling is often a family affair; a trade passed down from generation to generation and family member to family member. Fortune-tellers can be found in cities like Beijing where they minister to pedestrians and office workers.
Their true significance of fortune-telling is a moot point. There can be little doubt, however, that it is the power of belief and the ability to ‘tune in” and not the fortune-teller’s divination sticks that support the mystique and “power” of the modern Chinese fortune-teller.
Chinese authorities have targeted fortune-telling as the nation’s next priority in a crackdown on illegal telephone content and phone sex. Still, fortune-telling persists, which is a statement all by itself. Interest in the telling of fortunes always increases sharply around the start of the Lunar New Year.
For a dynamic nation like China, it would seem that the intangible is the most sought after commodity of all; namely, the future.
Who knows what it will bring?