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Chinese Fortune Telling

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Chinese Fortune Telling

A fortune teller waits for clients on Fortune Teller Street in Taipei.

Lauren Mack / About.com

Having one’s fortune told through Chinese fortune telling (算命, fate calculating) is a routine practice in Chinese culture. Consulting a fortune teller is nearly compulsory before Chinese New Year and major events like wedding engagements and the birth of children.

There are over a dozen types of Chinese fortune telling methods but nearly all are based on the Chinese Almanac. The cost of a fortune telling session varies based on the city, fortune telling method, and what specifically the recipient wants to know. Getting an answer to one question, like finding a lover or a job, costs less than getting an overall fortune for the coming year, decade, or life. Basic fortune telling in Taipei starts at $15.

Fortune tellers can often be found in or near Buddhist and Taoist temples in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and in Chinatowns around the world. The fortune telling session takes place at a table or desk with the fortune teller and customer sitting across from each other or next to each other. In many instances, there is little privacy as the fortune telling tables or booths are located next to each other with just a flimsy wall to partition them.

The method of Chinese fortune telling in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other countries like the U.S. remains virtually the same regardless of location. All a person needs to have his or her fortune or that of a family member or friend told is first and last name, birth date, and age (for Westerners, add one year to your current age because the first year of life in Chinese culture is counted beginning at birth whereas babies in the West do not turn one until a year after their births). Additional information like time of birth and a person’s address are sometimes required for certain fortune telling methods.

Learn about some of the fortune telling methods in Chinese culture and what you can expect to do and learn if you choose to have your fortune told. Oftentimes, you can have one or more methods used to reveal your fortune. For example, palm and face readings may be combined with basic fortune telling to generate a more accurate reading. In many large cities like Beijing, Hong Kong, and Taipei, it is possible to have your fortune told in English.

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