This book contains overviews of eleven traditional methods of Chinese divination. It’s a fascinating summary of the diverse methods were developed in this culture, as well as the sources of inspiration – the sky, the Earth, the human body, a tortoise shell, a gambling game, birth dates, and plants.

The methods covered include Chinese astrology, facing reading, Feng Shui, hand reading, I Ching, the Lunar oracle, Mah Jong reading, the Four Pillars of Destiny method, the Nine Star Ki, Weighing the Bones, and yarrow stick divination. The section on Chinese astrology describes the twelve animals, the five elements and their correspondences, and their active and receptive (yang and yin) variations through the twelve animals. Unfortunately, the list of years starts at 1930 and ends in 2008. Readers may ascertain information about their birth year but will have to figure out which animal and element apply to the current year.

Face reading has many cultural variations. The Chinese method is detailed and systematic. Meanings of specific features like eyes, eyebrows, nose, ears, lips, and chin are briefly described. The Feng Shui section covers basic principles along with techniques for modifying different rooms in a home to improve living conditions and health. Chinese hand reading links the trigrams of the I Ching to areas of the hand. The author compares similarities and differences with Western palmistry methods.  

The I Ching segment describes the three coin and yarrow stick methods for casting and gives short, modernized meanings for the 64 hexagrams. The Lunar Oracle depends on interpretations of the 28-day cycle, with specific advice for each day. Mah Jong readings are performed with a set of 144 Mah Jong tiles. A technique for creating a spread is followed with concise meanings for the tiles.

The Four Pillars method is a variation of birth date divination. The Lo Shu or Nine Star Ki is a numerology system used to describe personality and the coming year. Weighing the Bones also relies on birth data – year, month, day and hour. Graphs converting data to a weight in ounces are provided; one's fortune derives from the total weight. The Chien Tun or yarrow stick divination is an alternate method for generating an I Ching hexagram. The book is rounded off with a glossary.

There are sensible discussions of all of these methods, that is, enough to whet the appetite but not enough for mastery. A list of books for further reading would have been helpful, as some of these methods are obscure. It is, however, a valuable primer for learning about Chinese divination and forecasting methods, and recommended for the reader seeking an overview of the range of Chinese divinatory methods.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Sasha Fenton
2018, Hampton Roads Publishing
242 pages, $16.95 pb.
(reprint of 2003 edition by Zambezi Publishing, UK)