God laughed at me, then gave me a message.
An obvious difference between the States and Taiwan is the presence of temples. Temples in Taiwan come in all shapes and sizes and are often ridiculously ornate. These temples tend to be dedicated to a specific deity, such as Confucius or Mazhi (the female God of the ocean, and one of Taiwan’s most popular deities). These temples have a terrific mix of Buddhist, Daoist and Confucius deities and gods represented.
The particular temple I went to has the god of heaven as the most prominent deity.
When praying to any of the gods, it is polite to bow 3 times, introduce yourself and then ask for that god’s help within his given realm.
Fonda, who showed me all of this, and I bought some paper money upon entering the temple and set it up in front of the god of heaven, while we took off throughout the temple to pay our respects to the various deities represented.
Asking for a message consists of three parts, asking if god has a message for you, finding the right message and deciphering the meaning.
There is an item called a “bei.” It resembles ancient Chinese currency, and the easiest way for me to describe it is like a big kidney bean, split hotdog style, so there’s one smooth side and one curved side of each half, and the smooth sides fit together to make the whole object, that fits in your hands.
You can see me tossing the bei in this picture, they’re kind of hard to see because of the motion.
Anyways, first you ask god if he has a message for you. And to do this, you first introduce yourself and ask for a fortune, at which point you throw the bei. If it turns out with one flat side down, and one curved side down (a 1 in 4 chance) then god has a message for you. This is called a bei-shou.
My first toss fell in such a way that the meaning was that god was laughing, which for some reason seemed appropriate, I thought it was kind of funny I was asking the god of heaven for a message. My second toss, however, let me know that god indeed had a message for me.
On to step two. There is a bucket full of flat sticks. The sticks all have numbers on them. After shuffling the bucket, you draw a stick and then you must ask god if that is the message he wants to give you. The number dictates the fortune you receive. So, if the message is the one god intends for you to receive, he will have you throw three bei-shous. If you get two flat down, or two curved side down, then it is not the message, and you must select a new one.
I don’t remember how many sticks there are altogether, the highest number i remember is sixty. This step took me quite a while, but finally I drew the destined stick and threw my three bei-shous. Beneath the bucket with the sticks is a small set of drawers, each drawer having a number coinciding with a stick. This drawer holds your fortune.
Once you get your fortune, there is a binder full of the various fortunes with explanations and the history behind each fortune. The story behind mine went something like this, “There were two great friends, one of them left on business errands for a faraway place. The traveler was gone for a very very long time. The friend that remained behind became worried and went to temple to pray ask god for a message about his companion. God’s message was favorable,