Primal Trek

Fortune-Telling and Old Chinese Cash Coins

Traditional Methods of Fortune-Telling

In ancient times, the Chinese believed in consulting a fortune-teller for both important and mundane matters.  For example, a Chinese might have wanted to know if he would be successful in his business.  Or, he might have wanted to know if he would pass the imperial examinations, have children, be cured of an illness, etc.

In old China, fortune-tellers mainly relied on the following methods to foretell the future:

Using Old Cash Coins and a Tortoise Shell

The method of using three old Chinese cash coins and a tortoise shell to predict the future was as follows.

Old Tang dynasty coin used in fortune-tellingFortune-tellers preferred using old cash coins from the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD) such as the kai yuan tong bao (开元通宝), pictured here, first cast in the year 621 AD during the reign of Emperor Gao Zu.

The fortune-teller would first light incense and candles and place them in front of a picture of an old man whom they considered a deity of this kind of divination.  He would then put three cash coins into a tortoise shell, shake them and spill them out onto a plate.  After observing how many of the coins were reverse side up he would then use the coins to rap on the tortoise shell.

The process of shaking the coins in the tortoise shell, spilling them out, observing the number of coins reverse side up, and then rapping on the tortoise shell was repeated three times.

The fortune-teller would then use a complicated set of rules and compare the position of the coins with the five elements and the bagua to make his prognostication.

Of the six methods of fortune-telling mentioned above, the literary class of Chinese considered this method to be the most orthodox and reliable.

Note:  To see how old Chinese cash coins were also used to treat illness and disease, please visit Chinese Coins and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

    Return to Ancient Chinese Charms and Coins