Thursday, December 9, 2010

tiu chiam - chinese fortune sticks

chinese fortune sticks or divination sticks are the flat, wide sticks that are usually stored in a cylindrical bamboo container. they are generally made of bamboo. they look like extended ice-cream sticks and are often painted red at one end. each stick carries a number written in chinese characters. the total number of sticks in a tube may vary between 60 and 78. in the past, its practice was more prevalent and you could 'tiu chiam' at any large buddhist or taoist temple. today, you can still do so. i was told that the kwan imm thong hood cho temple on bencoolen street is popular for its fortune stick prediction.

these are the prediction sheets that go hand in hand with the fortune stick. each printed slip is numbered to correspond to the number on the stick. suppose you toss out a valid stick and its number is 30, then you go to the counter to get prediction sheet number 30. the slip of paper contains a short poem or rhyme. interpretation of the it may not be definitive; at best, it gives you an indication of what lies ahead.

for a small fee, you could get a temple worker or a volunteer to do the interpretation. you could even take it home to get someone knowledgeable in such matter to interpret for you.

the chinese like to believe that opportunity exists for people to make the most of their lives by being more aware of the 'environmental conditions' that surround their lives.

here are two pairs of wooden moon blocks (jiaobei). they are used to decide the validity of a fortune stick that has been dislodged from the container. if both blocks fall on the same side - either flat or curved - then you do not accept the stick. the fortune stick is valid only if one lands on the flat side and the other ends up on the curved side.

here are the steps involved in this method of fortune telling:

first, kneel in front of the deity and think silently or whisper your question to the deity while holding the cylinder in your two hands.

next, shake the cylinder, which is usually tipped slightly forward, resulting in one stick dropping out of the cylinder. if more than one stick falls out, replace the sticks and repeat the procedure.

once a stick falls out, you pick up the two jiaobei blocks and toss them. you only accept the stick when one block lands on the flat side and the other is on the curved side.

take the valid stick to the counter where you will get a prediction slip corresponding to the number on your stick.

i remember my mother resorting to this method of fortune telling when i was very ill at one time. the other instance she did this was when she tried to find out how i would fare in the primary school leaving examination.


Icemoon said...

From hindsight, was the tiu chiam accurate for the illness and PSLE?

yg said...

icemoon, i think the people who come up with these prediction slips are clever enough to add an element of ambivalence - so you do not get a definite answer. anyway, from young, i have never quite believed such a thing. i recovered from the illness and i passed my psle.

Victor said...

Whether the tiu chiam was accurate or not is irrelevant. YG was obviously blessed by the immortals when he recovered from the serious illness and when he passed his PSLE (maybe not due to his own hard work after all).

Mathematically speaking and disregarding the different curvatures of the 2 sides, the chance of getting one jiaobei facing up and the other down is twice that of the other 2 outcomes, i.e. similar to that of throwing 2 coins. That makes the chance of a devine approval same as that of a disapproval. God is fair.

yg said...

feel like i have been blessed by immortals and a cannon-worshopping mortal