Bad news from a Hong Kong fortuneteller is oddly reassuring

Bad news from a Hong Kong fortuneteller is oddly reassuring

When one man is told his quest for a girlfriend is doomed to fail, he takes comfort from the fortuneteller's admission that actually she's not really psychic

tarot card reading temple streetClaiming no psychic abilities or spiritual connections, "B" is now the reigning queen of tarot on Temple Street.Temple Street is known for many things, from street walkers to tourist tats, and right bang in the middle of the night market is a gauntlet of fortunetellers. 

Passers-by are encouraged to sit down with palm, crystal ball, face and tarot readers.

For such a mysterious profession the setting is rather mundane, even to the point of blandness. Tents are laid out in an orderly uniformity only Hong Kong could engineer.

She once had a pregnant woman ask her whether she should keep her unborn child or not

Most fortunetellers will display the languages they speak on the front of their tents and call people in off the street to ask them a few questions.

At one end of the street, there are two understated stalls with queues noticeably larger than the rest. They have no pictures of famous visitors on their fronts but instead boast a determined crowd of clients ready to listen attentively. These are the tents of Temple Street's most popular tarot card readers.

“Clients normally come to ask about either love, career or health,” says B. Only known by her nickname, B has been a tarot reader for seven years on Temple Street and commands the largest crowds.

I ask B about love. She asks that I split the pack of cards into three, then reassemble it as I want.

B draws five cards, and immediately launches into my fortune for the next six months.

“A few girls will try to get your attention, but you won’t be interested,” B explains above the din of roaring trucks just a few feet away, and manages successfully to inflate the ego of her client.

“Any girls you will be interested in though will have boyfriends. As far as I can make out, you won’t have a girlfriend in the foreseeable future.” The ego duly slips away.

B believes that her continued success amid such strong competition on Temple Street is a result of her pragmatic approach to fortunetelling. Although she says she does not feel spiritual about the practice, she does see a psychological connection. 

Just a guide

Before B became a tarot reader she worked in various jobs, but mentions no history of psychic ability or connection with something unobtainable to the rest of the public. She started learning tarot cards in 2002 after visiting her mentor and neighboring card reader, known as Ally.

Having visited Ally to have her own cards read, B was impressed by the positive impact the cards could have, and decided to learn how to read cards full time. By 2003 she had set up her stall.

“With tarot reading, I tell my clients what they are capable of achieving, not what will definitely happen to them. It’s up to them whether they follow my advice. I’m helping them understand their options, not delivering them their destiny.” 

If the news from the cards is negative, B sees it as her job to find ways to help clients steer clear of potential misfortune, making her service a responsive, emotional and therapeutic one and not just a one-way reading.

It is refreshing to hear such a down-to-earth explanation of a practice so easily discarded as a con. To emphasise the point, B explains that she once had a pregnant woman ask her whether she should keep her unborn child or not.

“That was not a question for tarot readers, and I told her as much. I sat with her, I listened to her and I helped her but we didn’t open the tarot cards. Tarot cards are a guide, not your future.”

tarot reading in hong kongThe wait outside B's tent can take up to an hour, even with advanced booking.Waiting on the street for a chat with Ally is a girl in her mid-20s who didn't want to give her name. She was waiting to hear advice about her own career and love options.

“I read my own tarot cards at home,” she says, explaining how she had actually already drawn tarot cards to find answers to the questions she will soon ask B’s mentor. “I didn’t like the answers the cards produced, though, so I’m here to speak to Ally to help me interpret them in a more positive light,” she says.

So what positive comments can B offer in regards to my own future girlfriend situation?

“Relationships represent hassle to you,” says B. “You value your freedom but girls in Hong Kong will want you to devote your every minute to them, which is why you’re not likely to end up with someone here.” I do agree with her.

“There are ways to alter this,” B says. “Change your approach to relationships perhaps, and compromise a little more.”

Upon hearing this description a friend points out that tarot card readers only read people, not the cards, and that there’s nothing psychic about them.

B was fairly accurate in her interpretation and offered sensible advice. She did not pretend to offer psychic guidance.

And certainly, whether it is indeed the cards or the person being read, there is no shortage of people willing to listen to well-meaning advice.

Where to find B: Corner of Shanghai Street and Market Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, tel +852 9781 3690