Getting my Palm Read in China

Photos from the Road: Shaxi’s Friday Market
April 6, 2012
Cruising the Yangtze Day 1: Leaving Chongqing
April 16, 2012

Getting my Palm Read in China

93. He pencils in the only thing I can understand among the Chinese characters. He smiles and points to the man with a long grey beard and arching back behind me. I smile.

He’s predicting that I’ll live until I’m old, just like that man. Good.

He continues. I’ve got my left hand out, palm up. He doesn’t need to inspect it very carefully before he begins a long explanation in Chinese. That’s why I’ve handed him the notebook and pen.

I’m getting my palm read. Beside the park in Jinghong, in China’s Xiashuangbanna Autonomous Region, fortune tellers and palm and face readers line the sidewalk. Men and women, most of them in their 60’s or 70’s, have some kind of laminated palm or face diagram on the ground in front of them. They sit on short stools waiting for potential clients to walk past.

My traveling companion and girlfriend, Juno, knows enough about palm reading to clue me in as to the order of his predictions. First he comments on my love.

“You’ll have a good wife.”

That’s probably a safe prediction for him to make. Juno is looking on, after all.

Next he tells me that I have a high level of education. Not an unrealistic assumption to make about a foreign traveler.

Then he predicted the age of my death.

What is most shocking is when he comes to the part about my fortune. He thinks that I’ll have money in my life. Alright. Moving on.

So far everything is going well for me.

“When you were young,” he continued, “Your life wasn’t so good. But it’s better now, and will be even better when you are old.”

I don’t mean to play the role of the skeptic, but these have generally been safe things to say about a person so far. And this as well. Most of us have a decent childhood, but we all have growing pains, don’t we? I didn’t dislike my childhood, but I certainly prefer being an adult.

But I have to admit, it does sound good to hear that my life will continue to improve with age.

By this time, the palm reading of a Western man has garnered the attention of about ten or so onlookers, arched in a half-moon around me and the palm reader. They are listening intently to the interpretations and prediction of my life.

Photo by Juno Kim

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. Mike B. says:

    I’m interested to hear more. I love this stuff.

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