Chinese Fortune Stick: ‘card’ of the week 27 Jan 2014

card 1.27.2014

This year is the Year of the HORSE. Those born in the year of the horse (1918,1930,1942,1954,1966,1978,1990,2002, or 2014)  are said to be elegant, active, energetic, gentle and industrious.    Their confidence and refinement is a symbol for the coming year where we’re all moving forward with self confidence and grace.

So, in honour of Chinese New Year this Friday the 31st,   this week’s “non-card”  is from a set of old bamboo Chinese Fortune sticks, or  Chien Tung (called Kau Chim in China).   It’s not  pretty to look at, but it’s a beautiful,  ancient system of divination by “lots” (sticks) that dates back to the 3rd century and is still used in Buddhist and Taoist Temples across China as well as by Westerners.    What I love about Chinese divination is that it’s not intended to replace action or choice (the belief is that we’re destined only to certain things  such as to be born at a certain time and place but after that life is a symphony of choices, growth and interplay of the elements of the Tao; and it’s up to us to find our path)

Though these sticks are not the I-Ching, it is similar because I-Ching sticks (made of yarrow)  were often used in fortune telling and this particular set of fortune sticks include 64 numbered sticks so that the recipient can draw from additional I-Ching meaning.  All sets are different and some have as many of 100 sticks.   In rolling the container held sideways,  and focusing on a question or asking for general guidance, one stick will eventually pop out on its own,  giving an answer.   In a temple setting, a volunteer, priest or Interpreter gives meaning to the given lot based on books of ancient  poetry and traditional meanings.

This one, #52 in my set, was drawn in the traditional container rolling fashion and has the following poem:

In the royal canal love poems floated on leaves,
Written by a maid in service of the court.
A scholar responded by the same means,
And at last the leaves brought the lovers together.


Traditionally this means that  while it may seem like things take a long time to come together, guided by the unseen flow and forces of the current, your solution and purpose will arise in time.  Instead of a fast solution or instant gratification of a “fix” right this instant,  you can expect steady growth and development.       After all, things that are on the move don’t have to be speedy to create great change.

In terms of relationship, this indicates that while there may seem to be a gulf between you and another person you’re in a relationship with, these forces of connection are trying to wind their way towards each other and bridge distance.  Drawing this number augurs a good time to give relationship commitment and it speaks of longevity and success.    A line in the booklet that comes with this set offers a reflection to go with this poem:

An impossible chasm seems to be set between yourself and another. Yet this gulf can be bridged. Be honest about what you feel, and see if such honesty brings a change on the other side. Even if it does not, you will have acted appropriately.


If there are wise words to live from this week, let it be those.  I love that paragraph.  Be honest about how you feel and open with those around you.  Because relationships are mirrors, maybe it will bring about a feeling of safety, trust and connection that will give rise to progress, but you can’t control other people and  in the end being open and having done YOUR part to be loving of yourself and others is reward unto itself.

The related (at least in this set) hexagram in the I-Ching #52 is about STILLNESS and inner repose, so this is a good time to focus on stillness while those forces small, or internal, are working their magic.



About this deck:  This particular set of meanings is from the book “CHINESE FORTUNE STICKS”  by Zhao Xiaomin and Martin Palmer, Published by Harry N. Abrams. Zhao Xiaomin is an expert in China’s cultural and religious history and he, with Martin Palmer are directors of ICOREC (International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture) in China.  Martin Palmer, a contributor to the BBC, studied Chinese and at Cambridge University and together with Zhao Xiaomin, has written books on Chinese folk religion and beliefs.       This set is possibly out of print, but if you see it in a yard sale, it’s worth a gander!

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