When I was 22 years old, I met a fortune telling master for the first time. During my time as a wandering monk, I spent half a year at Mingfeng Mountain (鸣凤山) in Hubei Province. It was there that I met Cui Ji Cai (崔吉财). Everyone calls him Immortal Cui (崔神仙). He was middle-aged and overweight at the time. He has a lazy eye, so I could never tell what he was looking at.
Immortal Cui is a Wudang Mountain Daoist and a disciple of Wang Guang De, the former abbot of Wudang Mountain. In the temples, all Daoists are given a job to do for part of the day. On Wudang Mountain, Immortal Cui had served in the kitchens. When he decided to leave Wudang to further his fortune telling studies he had no money, so he made a large pile of steamed buns. He put them all in an empty fertilizer sack which he carried over his shoulder as he traveled. When he needed money, he would stop, put a cloth down on the ground, lay out his fortune telling supplies, and tell fortunes for people walking by.
One day Immortal Cui asked me to go with him on a feng shui reading. Feng shui, which translates to “Wind and Water” is the ancient Chinese art of how to balance the energy of an environment to bring good health and good fortune. At that point, I had been studying feng shui for a few months. A car came to pick us up and we rode a few hours to a city called Yi Chang (宜昌). A few businessmen were building an apartment complex near the Yangtze River and showed Immortal Cui several possible locations. Immortal Cui gave them advice about which piece of land to purchase.
For his feng shui reading, Immortal Cui had been paid 7,000 Yuan (about $850 Dollars). It was a lot of money at the time, more than my family earned in a year of farming. Immortal Cui told me that 1,000 was for me and 2,000 was to send to his family. Of the 4,000 left, he said he would save 2,000. He then told me that we would go out gambling with the remaining 2,000. That was when I learned that Immortal Cui enjoyed gambling. I found out later that he often gambled away every last penny in his possession. He did not care at all about money. He felt calm, no matter how much he won or lost. I was surprised, and didn’t want to go out gambling with him, but he insisted. As the younger man, I was in no place to refuse.
We took a taxi to an underground gambling den. Unfortunately, Immortal Cui’s fortune telling skills did not carry over to games of chance. Within 15 minutes, he had lost all 2,000. He sent me back to the hotel and get another 2,000. When I returned, he quickly lost that as well. He made me go back to the hotel a second time to get the remaining 3,000. Then that too was lost. Immortal Cui still didn’t stop and borrowed 10,000 from a loan agent in order to continue gambling. Within 2 hours, it was gone. He borrowed a second 10,000 and still continued to gamble. Fortunately, before Immortal Cui could put himself further into debt, the gambling shut down for the night and customers began to settle their accounts. I had no idea what we would do.
We were sitting there without a plan when the boss came over. He said that he had heard of Immortal Cui, and knew he was skilled at physiognomy. Physiognomy is the art of reading a person’s physical appearance. Each person’s face is considered a map of their past, present, and future. A simple form of physiognomy is also used by Chinese medicine doctors to build a patient’s mental and physical profile and help determine their treatment. The boss said that several people had predicted his future and had all said he would be extremely successful. Master Cui hesitated but mumbled that it was not true. The boss urged him for more detail. Master Cui took a long look at the boss’ face and began to speak: “You got out of prison five years ago. You were imprisoned because of a crime you committed in order to help a friend.” The boss asked him to continue. “Your wife was pregnant when you entered prison, but miscarried a son shortly after.” The boss was shocked and said that neither he nor his wife had ever spoken of their loss.
The boss brought Master Cui into a small back room so that they could continue their conversation in private. I wanted to go with them, but doing so would be an invasion of the boss’ privacy, so I remained outside. After 10 minutes the two men emerged from the back room, the boss praising Immortal Cui for his skill. Immortal Cui sat down at a table and was instantly surrounded. All of the customers and loan agents rushed at him, money in their hands, asking him to tell their fortunes too.
Immortal Cui told fortunes until dawn. He quickly paid off his gambling debts, and the next morning we returned to the mountain. He even gave me the 1,000 he had promised me, and I sent it home to my parents.
Immortal Cui is currently living at Tai Mountain in Shandong Province. He is famous in China for his divination and feng shui skills. He no longer gambles.