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Saturday, Jul 24, 2021

Why online fortune telling is booming among young people in Hong Kong

Why online fortune telling is booming among young people in Hong Kong

When Wong Fung lost his job in December, he turned to online fortune tellers for guidance.

Every day during his lunch break, Sean Cheng, a fortune teller, pulls out his phone, logs onto Instagram and checks his messages for new client appointments.

He replies to comments from online followers and gets ready to run his divination side business, right after he gets off work at a marketing company in Hong Kong.

Cheng, 25, began teaching himself tarot card reading in college a few years ago and set up his own online fortune-telling business in February.

He says he’s tapped into a growing clientele of young digital natives hungry for spiritual guidance with major life decisions.

“The reason why they come to me is because people don’t trust themselves. They hope they can get the right answers from me,” Cheng told NBC News.

His side hustle has taken off.

Cheng conducted psychic readings for more than 80 customers in the last two months alone, he said.

The cultural shift of the ancient art of divination in southeast Asia from in-person consultations to online platforms has spawned new opportunities for swift connections over smartphones and introduced the practice to a young, tech-savvy generation.

The popularity of social media, combined with growing economic insecurity, has also meant that business is booming.

Before every appointment, Cheng meditates for at least 45 minutes to prepare for a tarot card reading. He then sends his client a list of available services, with fees from $US9 to $US25.

Once the client makes the payment online, he shuffles his cards, takes a photograph and sends it to them via Instagram. He then analyses the cards and answers their questions.

“I feel happy when I hear people commenting after divination that it is accurate and really helps them,” he said.

The pandemic has also proved to be a good time to start his business, Cheng added, with people spending more time online. It’s also upended lives and caused many to reflect more deeply on life, love and career choices, he said, calling fortune telling a pandemic-resilient line of work.

A fortuneteller in her stall in Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong, in 2016. Credit: Imaginechina


After losing his job last December, Wong Fung, 26, said he felt constantly insecure and turned to online fortune tellers for guidance.

“If you can know your future destiny anytime and anywhere with just 100 HKD ($13), why not?” he said. “I feel more comfortable typing behind the screen. It’s easier to talk about what you think of deep down.”

Wong, like many in Hong Kong, has childhood memories of taking part in incense-filled ancestor worship ceremonies to pay respect to deceased family members, and has folded spirituality into his daily life since becoming a Buddhist at age 11.

Buddhism, along with Taoism, Confucianism and Christianity, are the most common religious beliefs in the region, according to the government of Hong Kong, with fortune telling historically a part of social culture.

Like millions of others, Wong tunes into Chinese New Year celebrations on TV each year, during which a Hong Kong government official takes part in a divination ritual called “Kau Chim,” drawing Chinese fortune sticks. A Feng Shui master then interprets the message the official has pulled out, which is said to determine the city’s fortunes for the year ahead.

“When a person is in a relatively negative state, they want to seek advice from the diviner. Feeling uncertain about the future and experiencing difficulties makes you want to know what will happen next,” Wong said.

“Or perhaps we want to peek into our future for solutions to our present problems.”

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