In the spirit of bringing the travel spirit home, a couple of weeks ago my friend Jane and I headed over to the Lama Temple neighborhood in search of 算命. Literally “counting a life,” this is the Chinese term for fortune-telling. My friend is about to leave China, and getting her fortune told was one of the last things left on her Beijing to-do list.
The Chinese method of fortune-telling is based on one’s birthdate and time, according to the traditional lunar calendar. From that snippet of information, our fortune-teller covered a piece of paper in dense calculations and managed to deduce a great deal: that she had a brother, a rough period from age 15-20 (then again, who doesn’t?), and big changes coming. He warned that 2012 would be a rough year, but that after that her career would improve by leaps and bounds. Her children would mostly be boys, and the oldest boy would be especially brilliant. Music to the ears of a Chinese parent, I’m sure! A particularly sticky question was resolved with an additional procedure that looked a bit like rune-casting. Of course, there was romance advice, too, but some secrets should stay between a girl and her fortune-teller!
I was sorely tempted to get my own fortune told, but the high price (300 RMB, or around $45 at the current exchange rate) deterred me, for now. I decided to save my kuai for our next destination, the tailor shop. Because while knowing my future would nice, new clothes will actually make it better!
Interested in knowing your own future? We found Jane’s fortune-teller in an alley south of the Lama Temple. Signs outside his office advertised 起名 and 算命. If you don’t speak Mandarin, you’ll need to bring a translator — he didn’t speak English and had a thick accent to boot.