Beijing (China Daily/ANN) - Divination in China is almost as old as the history of the Middle Kingdom, but having the future told by foreign psychics is a new slant on that ancient practice.
One of the psychics, Lynda Woolf of the United States, was overwhelmed by the response from eager clients in China who lined up for hourlong sessions from Jan 3 to 8 in downtown Beijing.
Although it was Woolf's first business trip to China, and her consultation fees can be more than $200 per half hour, clients still flocked to the capital to meet her from Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi'an.
Some asked for advice on difficult decisions, others wanted Woolf to check the feng shui of their newly opened restaurants. Most customers knew Woolf from the US, Hong Kong or Singapore, but others were new clients.
"When people come to me, the most common question would be regarding money, career, family and love matters," Woolf said.
A Beijing client named Liu said she visits psychics every year around the New Year.
"Whenever my emotions get tangled up with problems, I visit the masters for advice," Liu said.
Liu had visited a number of Chinese psychics, but this was her first time with a foreign psychic.
"Master Woolf has unique energy that I can feel, which is different from other psychics," Liu said, "and she is also effective, like she had known me for a long time," she said.
Unlike Chinese psychics who predict people's futures on the basis of phrenology, and the time and place of their births, Woolf tells the future from a person's energy, which she "sees".
Xu, another client from Beijing, thinks Western divination is more "scientific" than traditional Chinese divination, and she studies Tarot and astrology.
"I never asked anything from a Chinese master, because I think they tell things in a way that is unreliable. For example, a friend told me that a master he had visited told him that 90 percent of ghosts in China are tamed by a master, which I doubt.
"But for Western divination, which is mostly based on stars and energy, I think it makes sense, because I believe that the connection between the globe and other parts of the universe will reflect on individuals, so each person has a different energy," Xu said.
Xu said she also did not like the way Chinese psychics talk.
"They always sit in the chair, smoothing their beard, and saying words that are really difficult to understand. And they do not make it clear when you ask.
"But the Western masters are more direct when they answer my questions, which may be because of the different way of thinking," she said.
Zheng Wei, an assistant to Lynda Woolf, said privacy concerns might also be a reason people visit foreign psychics.
"As far as I know, some clients do not trust the mainland psychics because what they ask may be very private stuff, but foreign psychics, especially those from Western countries, are trustworthy in this respect," Zheng said. In Australia, Canada, Europe and the US, there are associations and boards that set professional and ethical standards for Tarot readers and certify those meet these standards.
Despite the warm response for Western psychics, their Chinese peers don't feel threatened.
"Foreign clients are more interested in prediction, while Chinese clients are more likely to ask for advice on changing names or naming their children, because they believe a good name can significantly affect one's destiny," said Zhou Xin, a Chinese psychic who has been in the business for more than 30 years.
"But compared with Tarot and astrology, Chinese divination, based on the theory of the I Ching, is more specific and complicated," Zhou said, adding that many foreigners are very curious about the mysterious Chinese divination and have come with translators to ask him to tell their future.
"Many foreign clients come to visit because they are obsessed with the I Ching, or The Book of Changes, as a result of the worldwide upsurge of studying this magical book," said another Chinese psychic surnamed Li.
Zhang Boyuan, a 75-year-old physic who has been studying the I Ching since he was 16, said the I Ching and Chinese divination is different from superstition. "It is science. Everything in this universe, including human beings, is affected by energies, such as yin and yang, and the five elements, and the I Ching reveals the rules of those natural energies. So people can foretell or change their destiny as long as they are proficient with those rules."
Ji Yerong contributed to this story.