Fortune Telling

Funny how I've been in Hong Kong for years and never visited the legendary 黄大仙 (Wong Dai Sin - literally the Great God with a last name Wong... why am I explaining this!?) temple. The temple attracts many to go and make peace with the gods after their regular work day… and of course learn their futures from the nearby fortune telling stalls.

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect. I've always associated Wong Dai Sin with lower class Hong Kong. As a child, I learned that the temple is chaotic and there's a lot of smoke from all the praying. I knew there was an MTR station to it, but I didn't know exactly which line it was on or how far it is (I got crap from FK and DT when I thought it was in the New Territories � it's actually in Kowloon).

Anyway, I've never thought of the Taoist temple as a tourist attraction. Since one of my aspirations while in Hong Kong is to follow the guide books and experience Hong Kong as a tourist, a visit would be quite novel.

So last weekend, PNGF, who's over here for 10 days, and I went together disguised as tourists. There's something unsettling when you walk out of an ultra modern subway system and an old temple sits right next to it… together with a bustling mall (some stores selling incense, no less).

Colorful entrance to the temple

The temple itself is very colourful (pardon the English � the Brits have it right). There are a few of them littered around the premise and each one of them represents different gods. The Confucius one is for education, for example. There's also a deceivingly peaceful pond and garden tucked behind the temples � don't miss it because it's very rare in Hong Kong to be able to enjoy a peaceful moment within the city. The main temple is where all the action is �people offering fruits/food/whole pig (cooked) to the gods, incense burning everywhere, people on all fours praying, people just praying, children running around as grandparents try to make them pray. Quite a scene.

The main temple and all the praying patrons

However, the real deal in Wong Tai Sin that attracts all the tourists (I'm guessing this is a relatively new thing for HK tourist…?) is the fortune telling. Here's how it (the simple version) works:

  1. Get a bamboo container that has many bamboo sticks inside � if you are facing the main temple, the booth is on your left
  2. (You can also get the instructions there if you are confused as to what to do)
  3. Kneel on your knees facing the temple � anywhere will do
    Ask the gods a question, any question (e.g. what does my career in the next 2.5 weeks/months/years look like? Should I move to a new apartment? Is my partner having an affair? Is surgery going to cure my friend's cancer?)
    Shake the bamboo container facing up (if in doubt, observe others)…
  4. …until ONE bamboo stick falls out
  5. There should be a number (1 to 99 or something) on the stick; write down the question and the corresponding number
  6. repeat the question, shake, write routine until all your questions have been asked
  7. Take all your questions and numbers and head to the fortune teller!
  8. They charge HKD30 per question… and they will upsell you with more fortune telling stuff

Back to our fortune telling adventure. 很邪 (very supernatural/superstitious):

I shook mine good while concentrating on my question… and the stick with the #38 fell out.

PNGF shook hers and it took a while; many bamboo sticks stood out and finally one came out: it was #38 also!

Guess who pitched the Red Sox into the ALDS that day? #38 Curt Shilling! This is all making sense!

Back in reality, we were wandering to the fortune telling stalls and we picked one that indicated that he spoke English. I hide my Cantonese and asked for a fortune telling session, and he led us to another lady.

She sat us down and picked out a piece of paper that corresponded with #38 (that's right, PNGF and I both got the same paper), which is a medium lucky number. On the paper was a poem about a famous idealist poet 陶渊明 who quit his job and went to live on a farm because he didn't want to compromise his morals in politics.

Basically, this is how the fortune telling works: the lady answers your question based on the story on the paper. In our case, since the story is about someone who won't compromise and took the unemployment route instead, then:

If you asked about love, then don't argue or else things won't go right
If you asked about health, don't do the surgery
If you asked about career, compromise a little bit
If you asked about moving homes, don't force stuff in the new place

Though I won't tell you what my question is, with #38 and Mr. "I'll quit if it's too much reality � and I'll be quite well off without reality," you can imagine my fortunes aren't exactly what I wanted to hear. I need challenge, I need change.

Hong Kong, a mix of modern and traditional, east and west

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