I am not an unlucky girl. That pass-the-hat drawing for a free dinner at Pizza Hut? Mine. That parking space that suddenly appears in front of the food market? Don’t even try to muzzle in! But when it comes to questions of love or money, I put my bucks on the Buddha.
The Chinese are masters of the luck industry. If rubbing a smiling Buddha belly or shaking Chinese fortune sticks, will bolster my bank account or get me a ring, I will rub and shake away. And so I did, in my quest for a romantic luck-over, traveling the streets of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Bangkok for the elixir of my kismet.
My first stop, the Tin Hua Temple on Kowloon, a place that felt more like Sunday at Ikea for luck seekers. Canisters of fortune sticks rattled here and there in front of the Buddhist shrine, falling out like vote-offs in a Survivor episode.
You shake and shake until one stick falls out. If three fall, forget it. You have to start over. As I shook for my fate, the lady next to me was throwing two wooden chips that looked like lips. If they both landed side up, she would be in luck. Side down? Give it up. Mixed? I never found out. All I know is a stick dropped out and it was the number seven. This required a fortune teller and one who could speak English. Pay dirt on the lady in the corner with an English Mandarin dictionary in her hand.
“There was a boy who wanted to study but he did not have oil for a light. He was poor and sad and one day he went away to seek his fate. When he came back he was a rich man and a merchant of lamps. He gave lamps to all the boys who wanted to study.”
“Well, you will one day have many lamps.”
I gambled and was out $10. It could have been worse. She could have told me that one day I would have many lumps.
Next stop, Shanghai where futuristic skyscraping structures have giant square holes carved into them so bad luck will pass through and miss the occupants.
Here a palm reader looked at my left hand – the hand of your birth destiny, and the right, the hand of action and told me that in 2004, that great monkey year, I would have conflicts but all would be solved if I moved east, maybe the Midwest? Well, how about Palm Springs? At least it’s east of Los Angeles. She looked at me, looked at my hand, pointed to my life line and asked for her $30, still a bargain as fortune tellers go, I thought. The same parables would cost $60 in Los Angeles.
So, still ahead of the game, I went to Bangkok where I heard the Erawan Shrine of the elephant god is famous for granting the wishes of its patrons. The shrine, wedged in a patch of green between the Hyatt Hotel and a new massive designer mall, teemed with devotees and pubescent Thai dancing girls bearing golden headdresses and anklets. The only caveat – there is always a caveat – once you get your wish you must return year after year to pay homage here.
I decided, rather, to let a Kitchen God and a little Feng Shui do the trick.
Tsao Wang is a generous god to Chinese families, bringing back luck to people who do the right thing: mainly eat eggs to attract cash, mushrooms for opportunities, chicken, kumquats and oysters for good living, pig’s tongue is profits, melon seeds for silver, and pig’s trotters to kick up the karma in chance.
I was told to keep a three-legged toad with a coin in its mouth. In fact, one should have nine of them in each room. Keep those toads below the table, behind the couch and in other discreet places, but never in the bedroom. It could turn into a bordello.
I was told to keep a wealth ship in my office and home to bring prosperity but not to put it too close to my three-legged frogs.
For added measure I was told to hang, tape, scatter, hide Chinese coins with square holes in the middle all over the house, on the bottom of the phone, under the floor mat, on my dashboard, in my purse, and even in my pillows. I was to wear them under my best pearls, along with a small golden dragon, a small golden carp and a three-legged toad to make sure my luck didn’t just stay in the house.
Finally, for the perfect dining table decoration, I learned a double carp turntable should be the centerpiece and my guests will never be more charmed.
Suddenly, a free dinner at Pizza Hut didn’t look so bad.
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