Chinese fortune telling

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Street fortune teller consults with client in Taichung, Taiwan

Chinese fortune telling, better known as Suan ming (Chinese: 算命; pinyin: Suànmìng; literally: "fate calculating") has utilized many varying divination techniques throughout the dynastic periods. There are many methods still in practice in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong today. Over time, some of these concepts have moved into Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese culture under other names. For example, "Saju" in Korea is the same as the Chinese four pillar method.


The oldest accounts about practice of divination describe it as a measure for "solving doubts" (e.g. "Examination of doubts" 稽疑 part of the Great Plan zh:洪範). Two well known methods of divination included 卜 (on the tortoise shells) and shì 筮 (on the stalks of milfoil shī 蓍). Those methods were sanctioned by the royal practice since Shang and Zhou dynasties. Divination of the xiang 相 type (by appearance - of the human body parts, animals etc.), however, was sometimes criticized (the Xunzi, "Against divination"). Apparently, the later type was a part of the medical and veterinary practice, as well as a part necessary in match-making and marketing choices. A number of divination techniques developed around the astronomic observations and burial practices (see Feng shui, Guan Lu).

The dynastic chronicles preserve a number of reports when divination was manipulated to the end of achieving a political or personal goal.


  • Face reading (面相) - This is the interpretation of facial features of the nose, eyes, mouth and other criteria within one's face and the conversion of those criteria into predictions for the future. This usually covers one phase of the client's life, and reveals the type of luck associated with a certain age range. A positions map also refers to different points on the face. This represents the person’s luck at different ages. The upper region of the face represents youth, the middle region of the face represents middle age, and the lower region of the face represents old age.
  • Palm reading (手相) - This analyzes the positioning of palm lines for love, personality, and other traits. It somewhat resembles Western palmistry in technique.
  • Kau Cim (求籤) - This requires the shaking of a bamboo cylinder, which results in at least one modified incense stick leaving the cylinder. The Chinese characters inscribed on the stick are analyzed by an interpreter. The prediction is short range, as it covers one Chinese calendar year. In the West, this method has been popularized under the trade-name "Chi-Chi sticks."
  • Zi wei dou shu (紫微斗數) - This procedure, sometimes loosely called (Chinese: 批命, pik meng) or Purple Star Astrology or Emperor/Purple (Star) Astrology, involves the client seeking an advisor with a mastery of the Chinese calendar. Astrology is used in combination with the Chinese constellations, four pillars of destiny and the five elements methods of divination. The end result is a translation of one's destiny path, an interpretation of a pre-determined fate. The result of the details vary depending on the accuracy of the original four pillars information the client provides to the fortune-teller. This method can also verify unique events that have already happened in one's life.
  • Bazi (八字) - This method is undoubtly the most popular of Chinese Fortune Telling methods, and the most accessible one. It has many variants in practice the most simple one called: "Ziping Bazi" 子平八字, invented by Master Ziping. Generally it involves taking four components of time, the hour of birth, day, month and year. Each a pillar from the Sixty Jiazi and arranging them into Four Pillars. The Four Pillars are then analyzed against the Daymaster, the Heavenly Stem for the Day pillar. It is a form of Astrology as opposed to Fortune Telling or Divination, and tells one about his or her destiny in life, current situation and area for most successful occupation. Originally Bazi was read against the Year Earthly Branch, then focus shifted to the Month Pillar, then finally Master Ziping refined and remade the system to use the Heavenly Stem of the Day Pillar as the emphasis and focus in reading. The practice for reading against the Year Branch is the origin of the popular Chinese Horoscopes for your Year of Birth.
  • Wen Wang Gua or Man Wong Gua (文王卦) -,[1][2] also known as Liu Yao (六爻) or Wu Xing Yi (五行易) sometimes called Wu Xing Yi Shu - based on the Wu Xing.
  • Mei Hua Yi Shu or Mui Fa Yik Sou (梅花易數) - Figuratively "Plum flower calculation", sometimes called Mei Hua Xin Yi. \Mui Fa Yik Sou, Zi wei dou shu, Tik Pan San Souzh:鉄版神數, North Pole calculation, South Pole calculation are five main calculation.[3]
  • Qi Men Dun Jia (奇門遁甲) also known as Kei Mun Tun Kap, Dun Jia or just Dunjia/DunJia or sometimes Qi Men or Qimen/QiMen - Strange Doors and the Hidden Jia, The Hidden Jia escaping through the Strange Doors, Jia is given priority or importance. It is called Dun Jia because the objective of this Divination is to protect the Jia stem and move it to a safe place, wherever it may be found in the Qi Men Dun Jia chart or paipan. The second highest form of Chinese divination, according to Jack Sweeney. Used by Liu Bo Wen to help the Ming capture the throne.
  • Yik Lam (易林)
  • Yin Kam (演禽)
  • Yin and Yang Bowl (陰陽杯) - based on Yin and yang
  • Tik Pan San Sou (鐵板神數)
  • Wong Kek Yin Sou (皇極易數)
  • Seven Major and Four Minor Stars (七政四餘)
  • Three Generation Life (三世書)
  • Yin Kam Fa (演禽法)
  • Chin Ting Sou (前定數)
  • Leung Tou Kam (兩頭鉗) - Figuratively "dual headed suppress"
  • Da Liu Ren (大六壬) also known as Liu Ren Shen Ke, or just Liu Ren, sometimes called Xiao Liu Ren - The Six Large Rens (Heavenly Stem), Ren in this case is given priority or importance. It is called Da Liu Ren because in the Sexegenary cycle there are Six Rens each with a different branch. The highest and most accurate form of Chinese divination, and after the Song Dynasty, the most popular in imperial China, based on texts found in the caves of Dun Huang. References to Da Liu Ren are found in dynastic histories and in the Romance of Three Kingdoms.
  • Tai Yi Shen Shu (太乙神數) also known as Taiyi or TaiYi or Tai Yi - The Great Yi God Calculating, Calculating the God of the Great Yi, Yi is given priority or importance. Primarily used to launch wars or other major imperial activities, with a fortune telling component.
  • Cheng Gu Ge (称骨歌) - Songs on Weighing Bones, fortune telling method by Yuan Tian Gang (袁天罡), involves adding up the "astrological weight" of the four time components and reading the total weight against a certain poem, thus revealing your life fate. Another method was by Zhang Zhong (Taoist).[4]
  • Zhou Yi (周易) - also known as Yi Jing or I Ching, divination according to the book of changes. Methods include: Computer casting, Yarrow stalk casting, coin casting, paper casting, manual casting involves the yarrow stalks or coins.
  • Yi Jing Numerology
  • Date and Time Yi Jing
  • Visual Yi Jing
  • Huang Ji Jing Shi (皇極經世)- Fortune telling method based on the book by Shao Yong, the "Huang Ji Jing Shi"
  • He Luo Li Shu - Fortune telling type numerology in accordance with the He Tu/Hetu/HeTu Diagram or the Yellow River Diagram
  • Di Li Feng Shui - A geomancy based art of divination. Similar to Qi Men Dun Jia.
  • Jiu Gong Ming Li (九宮命理) - Aka "9 Star Ki" or "Chi"/"Qi", also called "White and Purple Star Astrology"


In Chinese society, fortune telling is a respected and important part of social and business culture. Thus, fortune tellers often take on a role which is equivalent to management consultants and psychotherapists in Western society. As management consultants, they advise business people on business and investment decisions. Many major business decisions involve the input of fortune tellers. Their social role allows decision risks to be placed outside of the organization and provides a mechanism of quickly randomly deciding between several equally useful options. As psychotherapists, they help people discuss and resolve personal issues without the stigma of illness.

A famous Chinese fortune-teller's maxim[edit]

Traditional Chinese: 一命二運三風水四積陰德五讀書 六名七相八敬神九交貴人十養生[5]

Simplified Chinese:一命二运三风水四积阴德五读书 六名七相八敬神九交贵人十养生[6]

Pinyin: yī mìng èr yùn sān fēngshuǐ sì jī yīndé wǔ dúshū, liù míng qī xiāng bā jìngshén jiǔ jiāo guìrén shí yǎngshēng.

Jyutping: jat1 meng6 ji6 wan6 saam1 fung1 seoi2 sei3 zik1 jam1 dak1 ng5 duk6 syu1, ...

English translation: one fate, two luck, three fengshui, four karma, five education/study, six name, seven face(may included every face on your body, mainly your head & palm), eight respect for the heaven(sky)/gods, nine ..., ten keep living fit

The above quote, relating to the "five components" of the good or ill fortune of any given individual, is culturally believed to have come from Su Shi of the Song dynasty.[7] As a maxim, it continues to remain popular in Chinese culture today. Actual interpretations of this quotation vary, as there is no classical text explaining what Su Shi really meant. Some claim that it signified that a person's destiny is under his or her own control as the "five components" of fortune are mathematically one more than the classical four pillars of destiny, which implies that individuals are in control of their futures on top of their natal "born" fates.[7] Other interpretations may suggest that the order in which the components are stated are important in determining the course of person's life: For example, education (the fifth fortune) is not useful if fate (the first fortune) does not put you in the proper place at the beginning of your life. Other interpretations may suggest that there is no inherent order to the sequence, but that they are just a list of the five components of a person's fortune.

An example of a regional ethnic proverb[edit]

"Many points lead to one point" is an ancient Chinese proverb, originating from the Jianxi province. It refers to an ancient battle between the powers of good and evil, one of the founding schools of thought of the Chinese formation myth. The giants of evil used tweezers (approximate translation) to stab their opponents, whilst the dragon fairies had none and were losing. Wang won ju of the Good army then devised a cunning plan to divide the tweezers into two, wherein the giants vicariously stabbed themselves and Good triumphed. The moral of this story is that focusing on one task rather than two always brings greater results. Whilst not frequently used since ethnic tensions in the cultural revolution of 1966, it still has great meaning to a small minority in rural regions of Jiangxi.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Misterfengshui. "Misterfengshui." Chinese metaphysics 網上香港風水學家黃頁. Retrieved on 2008-01-05.
  2. ^ Fengshui magazine. "Fengshui-magazine." Chinese metaphysics 網上香港風水學家黃頁. Retrieved on 2008-01-05.
  3. ^ 【五大神數】【五大神數之邵子神數】
  4. ^ 鉄冠道眞人称命術--- 中國根源藝術網
  5. ^ 一命、二運、三風水、四積陰德、五讀書..的來源與探討~台灣六愚
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b Fsrcenter. "Fsrcenter." Su Dong Po's misinterpreted saying. Retrieved on 2008-01-05.