The Chinese Fortune Reading Cards are a 36-card deck with images from Chinese mythology, cultural icons, everyday ephemera and magic. The deck offers clear and direct advice based on ancient Chinese philosophy and teachings.
To outsiders Chinese culture has long been a source of fascination, an exotic merging of ancient and modern beliefs and practices. The Chinese Fortune Reading Cards are based on an ancient Chinese divination system known as the Oracle Bones Script, which in turn has its origins in mysterious Shang Dynasty inscriptions. The Chinese Fortune Reading Cards aims to simplify and modernise a complex system which is reputedly quite difficult to understand.
This deck it can be used for straight-up divination (fortune-telling), or as a way of gaining insight into, and understanding of, situations and questions. The advice the cards give is very clear and direct as opposed to a vague and open to interpretation; simply put, the Seeker knows the situation to which the advice must be applied. Whether they choose to do so, or not, is another matter entirely.
This is effectively an oracle deck, so it has neither Major or Minor Arcana and is not divided into suits. The deck comprises of 36 cards measuring 95 x 140 mm, which makes it fairly standard size for oracle cards, and considerably larger than your average tarot deck. The card stock is excellent, being light yet sturdy, and quite flexible without being flimsy or prone to peeling or bending. The cards have a smooth glossy finish which facilitates easy handling and shuffling.
The print quality is excellent, with clean crisp lines and excellent colour reproduction. Additionally, there are no misprints, no blurred images, and no colour bleeds.
The artwork is colourful and rich, featuring images from Chinese mythology, cultural icons, everyday ephemera and magic. These images are superimposed on a background of ancient parchment featuring clouds and stamps or seals (or perhaps chops). The images range from photographs of real objects such as Feng Shui coins, food, Chinese opera characters, statues of Buddha, red paper lanterns, a pagoda, offering candles; popular Chinese cartoon figures, and artwork inspired by traditional Chinese painting techniques (koi, Moon Maiden, fishing scenes).
The central image is contained within a circle of traditional Chinese-brush strokes. Below the image is the card’s title in English, and above it are Chinese characters presumably giving the same title. In a small red and yellow insert inside the frame is the card’s number in bright yellow. The cards have a vivid red border, with a curling yellow frame defining the edges of the illustration.
The image on the back of the card – waves or scales, clouds, and geometric designs – in yellow on a red background, is not reversible. However, these cards are not intended to be read in a reversed position.
The cards and guidebook come packaged in a solid cardboard box with a fold back lid, which is held shut with magnetic clasps. The box is finished in glossy Chinese red, and features images from the cards, as well as information about the deck. The inside of the box is finished with the same design that appears on the back of the cards. This is a solid yet relatively slim box-set that can easily be slid into a handbag or backpack, and will not sustain any notable damage from heavy handling or being taken on the road.
The 91-page guidebook is written by the card’s conceptual originator, Sharina Star. The Introduction gives the briefest background of the Chinese Fortune Reading Cards. From here we jump straight into the action with information on how to use the cards with two layouts – a one card draw and a three card draw (past, present, future). Each card has at least two pages of information as well as a full colour reproduction of its illustration. Each mini chapter gives a card three divinatory meanings which address some of the most common questions asked of fortune tellers and fortune-telling systems – finances and career, love, and personal issues and development. This of course allows the Seeker to cast specific readings focusing on love, wealth, or personal development.
Card titles include Love, Celebrations, Health, Travel, Abundance, Forgiveness, Challenges, Family, Renewal, Dragon, Prosperity, Destiny, Courage, Karma, Wisdom, Transformation. There is no explanation of the illustrations as they are largely representational (rather than allegorical). The ‘General’ meaning gives the seeker information about the atmosphere surrounding them - personal matters and issues pertaining to everyday life be they emotional, spiritual, or physical. ‘Career/Finances’ advice is generally aimed at gaining financial comfort and a personally rewarding career rather than offering tips on amassing wealth and clawing your way to the top. ‘Relationships’ advice is for those looking for new love, as well as those already in established relationships. To enhance the power of each card and help bring its prediction to fruition there is a special ‘Feng Shui Tip’ – which generally involves placing an auspicious object in a particular place in order to invite good fortune or a specific energy into one's life.
It is always a dicey proposition to use images and mythology from a culture which is not one's own – it lays one open to charges of cultural misappropriation. But rather than look at these cards in a negative light it is interesting to view them as a merging of two systems of knowledge wherein East meets West, and the best of both systems of divination are combined to create a new path of insight and understanding. It is also fascinating to see how many of these concepts and images have become familiar to our everyday lives – who here is not familiar with images of Lung (Chinese Dragon), yin yang, koi fish, Buddha?
This is a vibrant and charming deck popping with energy - its images are engaging and powerful. If you are looking for an oracle deck with foundations in Chinese or Southeast Asian culture then these are the cards for you. If you have an interest in Feng Shui then you will find this deck to be both fascinating and helpful. With very few Asian inspired decks on the market the Chinese Fortune Reading Cards will speak to those with a yen for the East. An engaging and original deck!