Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hi Gods, it's me, Liang Yong Yin.

Maybe the Gods didn't understand my English, or my convoluted, lengthy questions...
I went to Yongshan Temple, seeking peace and answers.
Tina says on New Years Eve, scores of people line up here to be the first person of the year to pray and plunge his or her incense stick in the burner. That person is considered to be extremely lucky and is immediately interviewed by media. I imagine the worshippers charging into this temple like frantic shoppers on Boxing Day.
Tonight, approaching typhoons have brought rain and only a few dozen people are inside the darkened temple. Chinese folk music with its lilting flute, plays throughout the site. Visitors have placed pomelos and potted plants before the Gods.

Tina and I each light seven incense sticks (provided free of charge) and pay our respects to the deities at different bays in the temple: the Goddess of matrimony, the God of education. Tina says that I have to introduce myself to each God, tell them my birthdate and address. I must also thank them, bow three times and then put a stick of incense in the burner, which looks like a cauldron.
As sincerely as possible for an atheist, I follow her instructions and pray for my good friend, Dar, to have a healthy, beautiful baby. I ask them to bless the marriage of my best friends, Uch and Kish. I ask them to look out for my boyfriend, Sean, who tears his tendons and breaks his teeth playing hockey.
And then I ask the Gods for guidance. I kneel on a cushion and clasp a pair of divination blocks in my hands - they're crescents-shaped, red wooden pieces, flat on one side, rounded on the other. I ask the Gods about my future and toss the blocks. If they both land on the same side, the Gods are saying, "No," or "Ask again," or "We have no clue what you are saying."
After at least eight drops, I say to Tina: "My perogies keep telling me, 'No.'"
Maybe the Gods don't have translators, she says. She asks in Mandarin if I can draw a fortune stick. Her perogies land in the "Yes" position - one on the flat side, one on the rounded.
I pick up a bunch of sticks, like it is a bouquet, and drop them back into a bin; the one that rises above the rest is supposed to be mine. I pull out the protruding stick and ask the Gods if this is indeed, my fortune. The divination blocks, twice, say, "Yes."
The stick reads 93. We go to a cabinet, pull out the small drawer labelled 93 and take the strip of paper inside with my fortune. We bring it to a man behind a counter who can decipher its meaning.
Tina translates: "Don't forget to cherish what you have."

I call my parents to tell them about my spiritual experiment.
"Daddy," he says - my father always refers to himself in the third person, "considers those to be like fortune cookies. Those comments are generalizations. They don't mean anything."
"Hey mom," I say. "I prayed for your good health."
"Pray to the Gods that your stomach will shrink."
Very funny, mom.

1 comment:

  1. As silly as I find it to talk to your imaginary friends, I do appreciate you trying to cast away my ill luck. I think next time you might want to find more modernized Gods. Any hip God would know that you can get an address on Google, and with all the technology out there, and being in Asia, you think they'd pick up a $2 electric translator!