Categories: StudiesTaipei

Temple Fortune Telling : Passing the Qualifying Exams

There’s something comforting about putting your faith in the heavens and asking for guidance from the Gods. Though my background has made me over-skeptic and despite this not being of my religious background I find fortune telling and the ceremonies surrounding it quite magical.

I have had close Taiwanese friends for whom I hold nothing but the greatest admiration who have repeatedly put a lot of faith in their fortune telling advisors. Mostly, this has been the influence of an older family member, usually the mother. If there was an exam coming up, a choice between job opportunities or even relationship decision needed – the fortune teller would be consulted and his/her advice strongly respected.

I vaguely remember one interesting story where I knew a Taiwanese girl who was in a relationship with this guy for over 5 years. The guy really wanted to get married, though they were both still very young. His mother took him to the fortune teller to ask about the girl, and the fortune teller did some mambo jumbo to conclude that there are bad news because the girl’s family has two daughters and no son which will have bad consequences for the match unless the girl will have a brother. I didn’t quite get the next part, but the fortune teller suggested that to fix this the girl had to get her mother to virtually adopt a brother so that the harmony will be restored and the match successful. To spice things up the fortune teller added that if the girl would not marry the guy she will lead a horribly sad life. Though this girl has a lot of respect for this sort of thing, having already changed her name once for her mother after the mother was told the name she picked for her at childbirth was not optimal, the girl became very upset and subsequently this incident led to them splitting up.

My Chih-Nan Temple fortune tellerTwo and a half years ago, as I was generally experiencing frustration with the university I was studying with at the time in Taiwan, I went to visit Taipei’s Chih Nan Temple half way from Muzha towards Maokong, where I came across a fortune telling opportunity. The story is summarized in a post called “My Taiwan future told at Chi Nan Temple”. My question was regarding whether Taiwan was the right place for me to study or not, and given the frustrating situation, were things going to work out? the vague response led me to believe  that the answer was that if I persist and study hard things will work out in Taiwan, but since I finally decided to leave that university and the Taiwanese education system I always thought that was a bit off. Talking to my dad the other day and recalling that fortune telling situation three years ago my dad listened to the story and finally said – “but you can also look at it as if he was right… you persisted, you made a decision, and things did work out at the end as he suggested, only it wasn’t in Taiwan as you might have thought he implied back then”. That’s a nice way of looking at it.


Interestingly enough, I visited Taiwan again not too long ago, and had the chance to revisit the exact same temple and met that same fortune teller. He is a sweet man who teaches at a university, speaking decent English, and once again he was warm and welcoming. He seemed a bit confused about my first question regarding where I’ll be in a few years, so I thought about it for a bit and since I had my PhD qualifying exams coming up I asked a simple question – “will I pass the qualifying exams?”. At this point it’s perhaps important to note that at the department I’m currently studying with the passing rate for the qualifying exams is not that great – in the last two years since I got to the university three (out of six) have failed the first take, and two also failed the retake and asked to leave the PhD program or convert to an MPhil degree. After I picked up the sticks and confirmed it was the right one with the Gods using the moon lips, this is what came out …


Chih Nan Temple Muzha (22).JPG


Not that I get it all, but he kept pointing to this page…

Chih Nan Temple Muzha (24).JPG

… telling me that I’m a Chinese martial general, or something like that. There was a Google-translate version of it that didn’t make much sense…

Chih Nan Temple Muzha (21).JPG


But at the end, the most important thing is the conclusion, which I captured on video here below:

Him: You must continue to study, you must continue, don’t worry, you are… this thing – don’t worry, because you are a martial, so ofcourse you can pass this admission (?)

Me: great, very happy.

Him: very happy, oh, yeah, us too, me too.

At the end of February last month I finally took my exams. Last week I got the results and was told I generally passed the exams. I have not failed the martial in me.

If you’re interested in this fortune teller’s services (which atleast at the temple are completely free), you can contact him through :

Chih Nan Temple Muzha (23).JPG


Whether or not you believe in this sort of thing, you have to admit it’s an interesting game. You might argue that there is a self-fulfilling prophecy at play, to some it might serve as goal setting, and to some this maybe gives psychological comfort or support, but it matters little – it’s what you believe in that matters most. For me it’s a tool to get closer to the culture that I live in and to the local friends that I cherish.


Perhaps I should go visit him again in Taipei just before I enter the job market and need to decide on which university or place in the world I should choose to work in.

View Comments

  • Nice article. It seems to me that what we call "fortune tellers" most Taiwanese see as their guidance counselors. Western psychologists are not too popular in Taiwan and these advisors often take their place (for better or worse).
    Congratulations on the exam!

    • Thanks, Lief. Yeah, I agree. I'm curious why psychology hasn't been doing
      well in Asia, even developed countries.

  • He looks very sweet :)

    It reminds me: before I came to Canada, every fortune teller my mom consulted with about me (or her not-so-great-relationship with me) advised her to send me away. Away from home. They said to my mom, that she and I should be separated cause our qi(s) are not a (good) match. I have a strong tendency of 木 according to 四柱八字, while my mom is 火 - very simple logic here, that 火 will burn 木 down. Funny that every fortune teller told her a same thing, so my mom was convinced. Out of love, she was/is the best supporter of my life abroad: she can handle our seperation as long as I'm well and happy.

    They also said, my 四柱八字 is not the one that can thrive in Korea (for the energy of the land, by 風水地理說). I should be close with the energy/qi of 水 and 土, water and soil (because I'm a tree). Living in a waterfront city/town would be an option, so that I can get the energy that I need/lack - and feel generally okay.

    I'd say I'm not totally buying all these, but things that happened for sure since I left home: my relationship with mom has improved a lot and... overall I seem to feel better here in Toronto. There must be lots of plausible reasons behind, such as sociocultural elements (more liberal, diverse, less sexist etc), but for my mom... she might think she made a right decision (to support me leaving home) guided by ancient wisdom - or superstition, however we put it.

    "...the right one with the Gods using the moon lips"
    So poetic :)

    Congratulations on your passing the exams.
    Don't you dare to fail the martial in you! ;)

    • Yuri - ^_^ Thanks, and thanks for sharing.

  • Last week, I was also going to this kind of temple fortune telling service with Amy.
    Regardless of what the fortune teller said, I have a strong feeling that it is a traditional psychologist service..... which you have some problem, ask the "God" to tell you what to do, and there is a experienced (old) fortune teller explains to you what you should do..... He do so, partly with the stick you have, but mostly with his personal experience and provide you some sort of "comfort" and assurance....

  • Cass - Yeah, I agree. I think there's this important function in most traditional societies or religions. Catholic priest confessions work in a similar way, I guess. It's a well-established system of societal psychological support for those who might be in need.

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