Since prehistoric times this art was formally established as a way to gain knowledge pertaining to your future. During the second century B.C. most Chinese fortune-tellers relied on writings of a Tíang Dynasty court official named Li Hsu-chung. He devised horoscopes using combinations of the Five Elements, and the Ten Heavenly Stems, and the Twelve Terrestrial Branches. To obtain a personís fortune his system needed to use the Six Characters which denoted the year, month and day of a particular personís birth.
The official governmentís manual was published by the Board of Rites in 1683 with an updated version in 1741 containing thirty-six books entitled Hsieh Chi Pien Fang Shu. Nowadays, the most recognized fortune-telling manual of China is the two-volume work Hsuan tse. In it are found all of the essential formulas, regulations, and methods of divination in combination with the many techniques used throughout different parts of China.
Another way of telling somebodyís fortune that dates back into antiquity with the Chinese is the technique used by physiognomists. The can tell fortunes by studying their clientís facial features. The ears and eyes and mouth, as well as the nose and eyebrows and forehead and cheeks along with the chin match up with the Five Sacred Mountains, the Four Great Rivers, the Five Planets, and the Six Stars. Our senses; and hand and fingers; our stature and frame, all relate to various fixed value in the numerological Order of Heaven and Earth.†
A physiognomist computes the relations and oppositions of all these factors and can foresee good or bad luck. He can also determine your probable length of life, your fortune in marriage and whether or not you will have children.
Many of these types of fortune-tellers were apparently blind old men led around by a young boy. Some of them had a harp upon which they would occasionally play as they walked slowly along the street. Others carried a rattle made of two small pieces of wood. When they were struck together they indicated the approach or presence of a fortune-teller.
The most popular fortune-telling system in China seems to be that of the Eight Cyclic Characters. Parents of a new-born or young child present the childís characters for interpretation to a fortune-teller who prepares a horoscope. The preparation of these horoscopes involves the cross-referencing of the Eight Cyclic Characters with animal signs of the zodiac.