The Face Of China



Fortune teller Mr. Li at work



Li Jiu Ming is a 58-year-old fortune teller who runs his business from his small home in a traditional Beijing hútòng 胡同 near the Yong He Lama Temple, a notable Buddhist monastery. Mr. Li is an expert in Zhou Yi divination 周易, a traditional Chinese method for predicting future events using ancient texts. He agreed to read my fortune and provide an interview regarding his profession.

Prior to reading my fortune, Mr. Li asked me to shake three divination coins in my fist while thinking about what I wished to ask him. The coins were thrown down six times in this fashion, with Mr. Li methodically noting the arrangement of the coins following each throw.

“That’s a good one”, he remarked, upon noticing the coin combination from my final throw. The combination represented the metamorphosis from a fish into a dragon. The dragon will then move into its rightful position, resulting in my every wish coming true. He looked into my past and saw an unsuccessful career. Starting from next year, he claimed, my luck will improve, and I will have a brilliant career in politics or finance. He correctly stated that I haven’t married yet. Had I married early, he said, it would have ended in divorce. He predicted that I will marry in 2013, though my first marriage will end in divorce. This will be followed by a second, more successful, marriage.

He also inquired into my date and exact time of birth, at which time he consulted a yellow book containing detailed tables of dates. My date of birth indicated that my career thus far had not been good, but that would change starting in 2013. He explained that it would be better if I stay in the East. Perhaps his most surprising prediction was that I will become a billionaire, but he didn’t specify how. He stressed that I will become very lucky in 2013, in my career, marriage, and everything else.  Every move I make will be successful. I asked him where I will eventually settle down and he answered that if I choose a career in finance, I will stay in the East. If I choose to become a politician, I will live in Canada.

I asked Mr. Li if there is anything I should be careful of, and he answered that I should wear black or blue clothing, because those colors are best for me. I should not wear anything brown or red. He stated that 5 and 10 are unlucky numbers for me, and I should avoid them, especially in any important financial transactions such as purchasing a home. The numbers 1, 3, 6, and 8 are all lucky numbers for me, and I should remember them when bargaining with merchants.

After learning of my bright future from Mr. Li, I questioned him regarding his career and special abilities. I mentioned that I was interested in helping foreigners learn about Chinese culture, which prompted him to explain his views on Chinese people and culture:

“China is where human culture began. The Chinese culture is most beautiful. The universe was created by the first being Pángǔ 盘古, who was Chinese. Because he was Chinese, China is the center. Before him, there was nothing. In China, people are becoming shorter, because they are becoming wiser. Chinese people are fully evolved. Foreigners are still evolving, which explains why they are taller than Chinese people. Once foreigners have finished evolving, their average height will decrease, just like Chinese people.”


When did you become a fortune teller?

Thirty years ago. I have never had any other job. My father and grandfather were fortune tellers as well. My father trained me, as he trained the others who attended his class.

Why did you move to Beijing from Henan?

It was in my fortune. I predicted it.

When you were a child, did you predict that you would become a fortune teller?

I did not, because my prediction skills were weak when I was young.

Did you have any telepathic powers or special powers of perception as a child?

I started seeing ghosts I was seven or eight. They looked just like people, but were really thin. When I was sixteen, my father removed this talent because he thought it was bad for my health. I don’t know how he did it.

Can you please describe a typical day at work?

I work from 8am to 6pm, five days a week. I usually have from four to ten customers a day.

A sign advertising Mr. Li’s services

Do you have any foreign customers?

Yes, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, Malaysian, American.

Do your foreign customers have any different habits from Chinese customers?

No, they’re all the same.

Do customers ever return to you after your predictions have proved correct?


Can you give an example?

You will. You will come back, after my predictions have come true. There are too many other examples to recount, so I’d rather not go into it.

Do you ever visit other fortune tellers to have your fortune told?

Yes, because we learn from each other. We meet regularly and discuss Yì Jīng (The Book of Changes, a classic Chinese text on divination).

Did you predict that I would interview you today?

No. Even though I work in this field, I don’t predict my future every day. I seldom predict my own future and I would have told you before if I had predicted this interview.

Have you ever predicted any disasters?

Yes, I give predictions about nature and the nation every year, during Spring Festival. I predicted the earthquake in Japan last year, as well as the current conflict with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands.

Do you have any predictions about the future of China?

In the future, the US and China will be the governors of the world. China is the yīn 阴 and the US is the yang . They need each other to maintain a balance. It will take a long time.

The entrance to Mr. Li’s hutong home and business