Beg a Stick

This woman was practicing Kau Chim (求籤) at Wong Tai Sin Temple (黃大仙祠) in Kowloon.

Kau Chim - Beg a Stick

Kau Chim translates as 'beseech inscribed bamboo stick', or literally 'beg a stick', in which a supplicant requests an answer from a deity.

The Chim Tung (簽筒), cylindrical cup, holds up to 100 flat sticks, each inscribed with a different number. After completing prayers to the prime deity Wong Tai Sin (黃大仙), the petitioner 'purifies' the cup by circling an incense burner three times and hand-mixing the sticks.

Next, the petitioner kneels, grasping the cup between the palms and asking his or her question (can be done aloud or in a whisper) while gently shaking the cup pointed slightly downward, until at least one sticks falls to the ground. The number on the stick indicates an answer, which the petitioner compares with the one hundred responses written on oracle paper.

To confirm the answer, the petitioner will throw two Gaau Bui (筊杯), literally 'bamboo cups', small wooden blocks flat on one side and rounded on the other. If the blocks land one round side and one flat side up, the answer is yes. If the blocks land with both round sides up, the answer is no. Two flat sides up means the deity is laughing at the question (or the supplicant because he or she already knows the answer), in which case the petitioner may then choose to ask again for a fortune. Occasionally a successful request may require further interpretation from a temple priest or fortune teller.

Should multiple sticks fall from the cup when shaking, that fortune doesn't count and the sticks must be replaced and shaken again until only a single stick is ejected.

This woman is holding Stick 49, which according to traditional interpretation means: "A dramatic change is about to occur in your life - whether this is for good or bad depends on your actions. Be prepared for things to change completely, and learn to adapt with circumstances. While you may have difficulties forming new relationships, existing ones will probably be successful. Business deals will probably be delayed for some time but will prove profitable in the end."

So if at first you don't succeed, try try again.

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Big White Guy is the personal web site of Randall van der Woning, who hails from Canada but has lived in Hong Kong with his wife Mabel for the past 16 years. Randall is a photographer, photography teacher, and writer.

Seriously ... Big White Guy? The nickname was given in Canada but was shortened to BWG, because this wouldn't be the Internet if we didn't initialise everything.

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