Shanghai's best places for fortune telling and astrology

The best places to seek a little help from the stars

Corine Tiah

Tarot Cards

This method involves guidance over the future using both tarot cards and your birth dates. Depending on what you want to find out, Chen Jin can calculate a monthly astronomy looking at different aspects of your life – in my case, love and work. He uses a number of selected cards to draw up a month-by-month summary of what’s coming up, as well as to pick out personality traits. Different cards have different meanings, but it also depends on the combination of cards, and the order and position they are laid out in. If you want to ask about your relationship, then you need to provide birth dates of both parties, and I’m asked to pick 17 of the 78 cards.

What rings true: Several of the personality assessments sound about right, including the card that symbolises optimism (I do love a half-full glass). But it’s a rather sketchy forecast for my relationship, where Chen predicts turbulence on an almost monthly basis, including a particularly bad patch next February and March. I’m also rather dismayed to see I’ve selected both of the cards he describes as the worst – the three of swords (representing disaster or heartbreak) and the devil card (representing addiction or being trapped). Perhaps that’s why Chen sees quite so much upheaval in the year ahead.

Verdict: It really does feel like something mystical is going on in this immaculate lane house, complete with floaty white curtains and cards laid out in circles in front of us. Wrapped in a kimono, Ningxia-born Chen looks very much as one would hope a Tarot Card reader would look, and he manages to break even the worst predictions in a charming and soft-spoken manner, cushioning the blow. Much of the information can’t be verified as it’s a monthly forecast through the next year, although he does say my boyfriend is lying to me already (hotly denied, incidentally, but then perhaps that’s also a lie) and predicts that he will ‘give in to temptation’ in the next few months. Hopefully it’s a cake-based temptation.

Details: Bldg 3, Lane 16, 1400 Beijing Xi Lu, near Tongren Lu, Jingan district (151 6001 0369). Open 10am-8pm daily. A reading starts from 280RMB and goes up to 1,120RMB for an in-depth session (Online consultations are also available).

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Probably the best-known of all the divination methods, Western astrology involves constructing a surprisingly scientific-looking map of the heavens at the moment of your birth, also known as a horoscope. The 12 signs of the Zodiac popular in the West are only a small sample of astrology, apparently – a full astrological reading takes into account the time and location of your birth as well as the date. This information combined can supposedly provide monthly predictions as the planets move.

What rings true: Qualified astrologer Natalie Liu describes my personality pretty accurately from pouring over our two charts; the natal chart which generates my overall astrological reading and the transits chart, which shows movements and predicts month-by-month changes. She says that from September I’m going to be spending more time on learning (I’m due to start a new language course that month), and warns of turbulence next February and March, possibly in a relationship (something also predicted in my Tarot Card reading). Although my main sign is Leo, the ‘rising sign’ (Libra) is meant to bring in calm and decision-making to an otherwise fiery personality, while the presence of mercury tempers the inherent Leo selfishness with an amount of empathy. Apparently.

Verdict: What impresses the most is Liu’s ability to accurately assess my character (and foibles) within a few minutes, and that gives me pause for thought over her predictions. She takes you through month by month and explains very easily what she sees in the stars, offering plenty of insight and advice along the way.

Details: Contact Natalie Liu to make an appointment on Consultations cost 1,200RMB per hour.

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Four Pillars

This traditional Han Chinese fortune telling method is based on the five core elements and yin and yang. It involves aligning a person's birth year, month, day, and time with heaven and earth to predict their life's success and failures, and to tell a person more about both the past and the future. Cards with Chinese characters on can also be used to indicate future elements.

What rings true: Much misses the mark on this one, including a suggestion that I have more than one sibling, suffered a disastrous event in 2008 and had my heart broken in 2011. But undeterred, the extraordinarily named Summer Camp does pick up on my fear of flying unprompted (though he reassures me that I won’t die in a traffic accident). He also tells me I’ll have a daughter one day, and more than one husband – something I initially found very exciting and Bohemian, until the realisation that he doesn’t mean both at once, but forecasts a divorce or widowing on the cards. When I ask if it’s in the stars for me to marry my current boyfriend, he turns over some cards, sucks the air through his teeth and says nothing. I decide to take that as a no.

Verdict: Wearing two pairs of glasses, a Bluetooth headset and an 'Ain't Laurent Without Yves' T-shirt and chomping on fat cigars throughout the consultation, Summer makes this a wonderful experience. He clearly takes the responsibility seriously, scrawling away on papers, getting plenty of details and dates, and consulting a well-thumbed book of charts in a room that's decked out in a Korean flag and pictures of world leaders. When it's all over, he makes me promise via a fist-bump to buy him a beer if all his predictions come true.

Details: China Gugong, Bldg 12, 933 Jiangning Lu, near Anyuan Lu, Jingan district (5252 0358; Opening hours vary; phone ahead for an appointment. Readings range from 600RMB to 2,000RMB for a full horoscope.

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Fortune Telling and Palmistry

Tiffany Pattinson, also a local fashion designer, has been telling fortunes using tarot cards and palmistry since setting up a subversive fortune telling clinic at her Catholic high school in Hong Kong. Having developed her craft for years, she now uses a series of tarot cards to answer questions and outline trends for the future, before pouring over our hand.

What rings true: Much of this session is predictions, making it difficult to know yet how much is on the ball. But I’m hopeful the predictions of long life will prove correct, although as with the other fortune tellers, she seems to see tumult in the year ahead, especially (surprise, surprise) in my relationship, which I can’t help but notice is getting a rather bad rap in general. She also says a work change is on the cards (no pun intended), which is spot on as I’m about to embark upon a new course of study. She also corrects picks from my palm that my career path has been quite steady, and always related to the same field.

Verdict: This is probably the most fun of all the sessions; Tiffany is lively and enthusiastic, and very easy to chat to. Rather than a set location she tends to meet clients in cafés – as well as making regular appearances at festivals – which means I feel more like I’m having an insightful chat over coffee with a wise friend. This is one to try with a couple of mates for a light-hearted discussion of your future.

Details: To arrange a reading, contact Tiffany Pattinson via her WeChat ID: tiffanypattinson. Consultations are 900RMB for one hour. Or catch her at events where she charges 100RMB per question.