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Young people’s “new religion” to seek help through superstition

BY Vimvam Tong, Tomiris Urstembayeva / Hong Kong University - International Journalism | 11-Sep-2019
More young people in Hong Kong are seeking out fortune tellers for simple, quick and cheap advice on life decisions. Local fortune tellers say these young people are coming to them because they are feeling more intense pressures from work, relationships and living spaces. #Youth #youngpeople #newreligion #superstition #hongkong
Young people’s - new religion - to seek help through superstition
Many young Hong Kongers seek inner peace at the Wong Tai Sin temple in Kowloon. They light incense sticks, hold them with both hands and pray facing the Chinese deities. Photo by Tomiris Urstembayeva.
In front of the Buddhas at Wong Tai Sin temple, rows of people are kneeling on the ground to pray. Some of them are shaking divination lots in a bamboo container until one bamboo stick with a number is finally shaken out.

Ms. Ting, 29, who doesn’t want to give her full name because she said it would bring bad luck, took her lot to fortune teller, Bessie Chu Siu-jan, 81, to interpret the number and tell her fortune in the coming year.

“I heard from my friend that my zodiac snake will be not good in the pig year,” Ms. Ting said. She has come to Ms. Chu for suggestions.

Ms. Chu has been telling fortunes in Wong Tai Sin for 21 years, since she retired as a nurse. She tells Ms. Ting to be careful with potential bad luck and pay attention to her interpersonal relationships . Ms. Chu then suggests Ms. Ting wear an amulet to minimize her bad luck because her zodiac sign has “offended” deity Tai Sui this year.

“I used to have many worries but now I feel better after listening to her guidance,” said Ms. Ting.

More young people in Hong Kong are seeking out fortune tellers for simple, quick and cheap advice on life decisions. Local fortune tellers say these young people are coming to them because they are feeling more intense pressures from work, relationships and living spaces.

Wong Gu-neung, in her 40s, has been telling fortunes, reading palms and faces for eight years in the Temple Street Night Market. She said that she serves around 90 to 150 people each month, and the majority of her customers are in their 20s.

“The economy is not as good as before and people are under different kinds of pressure,” said Ms. Wong. She added that when young people have some problems, they don’t know who to talk to, “so we are someone whom they can talk with.”

“People will always come to me and ask ‘why I am still failing now?’” Ms. Chu said.

She tells them to stop complaining and work hard, she said. Ms. Chu said that young people are lazier compared with the generation 20 years ago who were more practical.

“Nowadays, young people like to check their fortunes but do not work hard. They hope that they can get anything easily,” she said.

Numerology aims to help young people to plan their life, but not to be overly superstitious, said Tam Wan-lung, an expert on geomancy and tutor of the class of Blind Numerology in Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions Amateur Training Centre.

Mr. Tam recognises this trend and said that the pressures faced in this era are more diversified than the past.

“The youth have much more concerns about their future, like work, relationships, and buying apartments,” said Mr. Tam. He added that young people hope to grasp alternative solutions through fortune-telling to tackle their problems nowadays.

In Western traditions, the astrologer plays the same role as the fortune-teller. Phoenix K is a 35-year-old an astrologer in Temple Street who uses tarot cards to serve her customers. Using the name Phoenix K as her professional identity, she said that her customers are younger than before.

“Young people are more confused these days. They don’t know themselves clearly, and they need the exact answers for a life direction,” said Ms. K.

Ruka Tong Mei-kwa, 21, a local university student, has been doing research on fortune-telling, palm-reading, face-reading and divination for more than half a year, learning from different related websites and acquaintances.

“I am afraid of making the wrong decision” Ms. Tong regards herself as an indecisive person, believing that she should find answers and solutions from other approaches. She thinks that fortune-telling can give her what she seeks for. In addition, she can be psychologically prepared for those challenges by fortune telling.

“I can follow their suggestions but may not not follow them completely,” she said.

Young people are generally not very clear about their own life, or are afraid of making the wrong decisions and bringing bad influence, said Mr. Tong. “So people will find the answer through divination first to avoid wrong behavior.”

“Everytime I finish my fortune-telling, the solution to the puzzle will dawn on me,” said Tong.