During the first days of the Lunar New Year, people all over the country flock to temples and pagodas of all sizes to pray for peace, blessings for their families, and not forgetting to draw fortune cards to see their luck for the new year.
People who go to temples to draw fortune cards hope to have a year full of luck, goodness, and peace. This is a long-standing tradition that the people have preserved and it has become a beautiful cultural feature on every Tet holiday, welcoming the spring.
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Drawing fortune cards is an ancient cultural tradition
Do Van Giang, a collector of folk culture, said that the Vietnamese people have known about drawing fortune cards for a long time. On the first day of the new year, people go to temples and shrines to draw fortune cards to see their luck for the year. During the major festivals of the year, fortune card drawing is also organized.
According to the old custom, after offering prayers at the temple, people will shake the wooden tube containing the fortune cards vigorously until one card falls out. At that point, the person who drew the card will choose that card and ask the master in the temple to interpret it.
On the first day of the new year, people go to temples and shrines to draw fortune cards. Photo: Hoa Anh
The contents of the fortune cards refer to personal fate (the person drawing the card); family fortune (about the family of the person drawing the card); career luck (about working far away from home); fame and fortune (about the career path in the new year); losses (whether there will be any losses); love (about the path of love)…
In temples, there are usually about 120 numbered fortune cards stored in wooden tubes, with each number corresponding to a specific meaning. The fortune cards are made of wood and written in Chinese or Vietnamese. Some cards are written in Vietnamese with the meanings pre-interpreted on paper for the people.
Do Van Giang, a collector of folk culture.
“However, nowadays, most temples still use fortune cards written in Chinese with the purpose of making the cards more sacred and mysterious. People who draw these cards will trust the interpretation of the master,” said Giang.
Normally, a fortune card written in Chinese has 4 poetic lines and a general line to express the overall meaning of that card. For example, a fortune card may have 4 poetic lines “Dragon clouds gathering” (The dragon and the clouds gather). If someone draws this card, they will encounter a lot of luck, smooth work, and success.
Or like the poetic line “The dragon’s head on the water” which indicates that the person with this card will experience a lot of happiness in their destiny, business trips will be smooth, and their fame will rise.
According to Giang, all fortune cards in temples have the same basic content, only different names or numbering of the cards.
“Don’t rely too much on the content of the fortune cards”
Giang said that many people who draw fortune cards find their current feelings and circumstances accurately reflected in the cards, giving them some shared comfort and consolation. However, many bad fortune cards make the person who draws them worried, sad, and lose their appetite and sleep.
This originates from a lack of self-confidence, poor self-control, and vulnerability to the objective influence of the fortune cards. People like that tend to trust, easily believe, and tend to be superstitious. They listen to whatever the master says, especially when they draw a bad fortune card, it can lead to confusion…
Sai Temple, Thuy Loi (Dong Anh, Hanoi) is crowded with people drawing fortune cards during the Lunar New Year holidays. Photo: Hoa Anh
Many fortune tellers at Sai Temple practice their craft at the beginning of the year. Photo: Hoa Anh
“Drawing fortune cards at the beginning of the year is a long-standing cultural tradition of the Vietnamese people, and it also has certain positive aspects. However, there are also fortune cards that are not completely accurate because the meanings of the cards are not clear, the expressions are not standardized. Therefore, it has created a pessimistic and discouraged mentality for people who draw the cards for a long period of time,” Giang shared.
The collector of folk culture also added that many people who interpret the fortune cards do not have a deep understanding of the cards, so they misunderstand the meaning of the cards. When interpreting the cards for the people, they give them too much hope for something that will never happen or create excessive anxiety about a bad omen.
All fortune cards in temples have the same basic content, only different names or numbering of the cards. Photo: Hoa Anh
“I think the ritual of drawing fortune cards at the beginning of the year is similar to asking for luck at the beginning of the year. Therefore, people should not rely too much on the content of the fortune cards. Whether the fortune card has a good or bad meaning, people should be happy and consider it as a way to celebrate the new year,” Giang expressed his point of view.
According to Giang, there are some people who draw fortune cards at the beginning of the year and encounter good cards, their work becomes more favorable, and their career path moves to a higher level. However, that is just a random coincidence, not something bestowed by a divine being. Therefore, people should be optimistic and excited in the new year to work more effectively.