Fortunes and Temples

My room mate, Danielle has a very active host family. They are always inviting her here and there, and sometimes she invites me. I described our last outing with the matching sisters, well this outing found me in the tiny Nissan again, wedged this time on the side of the brother and sister, answering another onslaught of questions.

We were on our way to see a ‘psychic’ although by their use of the word, Danielle and I had no idea what to expect. We only knew where we were going, south to Nanao, but nothing much other than that we were going to see a ‘psychic.’ Riding along, I looked straight in front of me as we began the drive through the mountains, trying not to be sick,

‘If you do not feel well, you can just sleep’ the matching aunts told me, so sleep I did. By sleeping I also avoided two hours of questioning inside the tiny car.

We arrived and piled out of the car. I breathed the fresh mountain air deeply into my lungs, steading my slightly car sick head, and stretching my legs which had been cramped in the same position for a while. Adding to our confusion, there seemed to be a ritual going on; all numbers of crashing and banging drums and firecrackers. We took the steps up into the temple and found it to look much like a usual temple. This one was dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of the sea:

Mazu (traditional Chinese: 媽祖; simplified Chinese: 妈祖; pinyinMāzǔ), also spelt Matsu and Ma-tsu, is the Chinesegoddess of the sea who is said to protect fishermen and sailors. The worship of Mazu began in the Song Dynasty. Mazu is widely worshiped in the southeastern coastal regions of China, especially in ZhejiangFujianGuangdong and Hainan. She is also an important deity in Taiwan. Mazu is also worshiped in East and Southeast Asia.

Her birthplace was Meizhou (湄州) in Putian County (莆田縣), Fujian Province.[1] She was born in the year 960.[1] Her family had the surname Lin (林).[1][2] She had the name Lin Moniang (Chinese: 林默娘). She died on 4 October 987.[1]After her death, she was remembered as a young lady in a red dress, who would forever roam over the seas.[1] (wikipedia)

Eva and incense

We walked around the interior although it wasn’t spacious, so that didn’t take us long. We each got some incense and baibai’d to the goddess. 

We looked into the corner and saw a regular looking woman sitting at a table. ‘She must be the psychic’ I whispered to Danielle, ‘but she’s not that old!’ she whispered back. 

We were just along for the ride, so when Roger, the host Dad suggested we take a picture with her, we went with it.

Smile before you get told something awful!

I wouldn’t help but wonder and hope if she didn’t find us terrible and touristy.

This is one of the aunts, just picture another one exactly looking like this and you’ll know what the other one looks like.

The insides of the temple were interesting. I found this next picture to be an architectural style that resembled that of the honeycomb arches in the Alhambra I studied in my Islamic Art and Architecture class.

Matsu Temple


There were other similarities as well, including stories on the walls.

Not sure about this meaning.

and of course many offerings were there.

Someone had offered what seemed to be dried Lychee, and a little girl was eating them. Roger offered them to us, thanking Matsu first, and upon peeling it I found a delightful little jellied fruit with a pit inside. I used my teeth to eat the sticky meat, and looked around in vain for a paper towel before wiping my hands awkwardly on my socks.

Danielle and I began the fortune telling process by asking Matsu if she would even communicate with the psychic to begin with.

Asking the question

she said no at first. if they face different directions it means yes.

Finally she ‘agreed’ to both of us and we got yellow protection necklaces.

circle three times over the incense.

We cannot open these or get them wet or ruin them, otherwise it is a desecration. If we want to get rid of it, we must burn it and sweep the ashes into a corner os no one can step over or on them. I enjoyed telling Roger about the term ‘desecration’ and discussing grammar with him.

Soon it was our turn with the psychic.

many business cards

I went first, and after telling her my birthday was 11/24/1990, she changed it to 11/23/1990 because ‘4’ is an unlucky number, as the word sounds like the word for ‘death.’ (both are ‘si’ with different tones). Did you know that hospitals will not have a 4th floor because no one wants their relatives to be on the ‘death’ floor?

She wrote my numbers beneath a bunch of others.

While she thought, I had some tea.

I dislike this picture, but it illustrates what I was doing.

What she told me I have taken with a grain of salt, but it is fun to think about, much like astrology and all that stuff. Apparently the gods talked through her since she couldn’t read. 

The two aunts had been scheming to ask about a boyfriend for me since last time we were together, so that was the first question. Her answer? (obviously not in English.)

‘You will meet your boyfriend next year in America. He will be an American.’

Sounds plausible. Given that a year is a long time and I’ll also be at Columbia. I asked about a career.

‘As long as you follow your heart, everything is good’

Sounds like a cop out answer, but okay. I was almost looking forward to hearing her tell me I should actually be a doctor or something. I then asked about where I should live.

‘As long as it is a western country, everything is good.’

Can you guess what she said when I asked her about anything bad that would happen or things to be careful of?

‘Everything is good’


Danielle’s fortune was much the same. Afterwards we skirted off to a corner and talked about how general our fortunes seemed. We walked outside to talk some more.

the temple in the middle of nowhere.

The ride home was little short of unbearable. The winding mountain roads finally got to me and I ended up requesting all sorts of things I would normally have shut up about out of politeness like ‘could you please move over/pull over/open the windows/drive more slowly’ We sat at the side of the road while I had space to sit with my head between my knees and stuff Danielle’s peanuts into my mouth in hopes to quell the rolls of nausea and spinning vision.

I thought the car ride would never end and I had to go lie down the moment I got home. I don’t even remember saying goodbye to my ‘host’ family, as I just sort of exited the car with my head tipped to the side and slid into the house and into bed. I felt sick for the next two days. Well, now I know why people go to Nan Ao by train.

And to think I brought a book to read in the car.

Love, Hannah