The traditions of “Kau Cim”

Certain cultural customs and traditions may be slowly disappearing in the modern city, but the practice of “Kau Cim” has prevailed over the years and become even more popular among young people in Hong Kong. For those who are unfamiliar with this practice, “Kau Cim” refers to a type of ancient Chinese fortune telling practice performed in Buddhist or Taoist temples, of which the individual shakes three sticks in a bamboo pot to seek for their fortune in the Lunar New Year.

People of various ages and genders seek for different answers in their life – some may ask about marriage and education, while others ask questions related to property. If you’re feeling unsure or confused about moving house, buying or selling your property, you may find the answer at the bottom of a bamboo pot in Wong Tai Sin temple.


The practice of “Kau Cim” dates all the way back to the Jin Dynasty, but it was only introduced to Hong Kong in the 30’s. Wong Tai Sin temple was first built in 1921 in order to provide a private sanctuary for Taoist monks, but in the 30’s the Hong Kong government decided to open it up to the public which led to a large increase in the number of followers and hence became a custom in the city.


During its 90 years of history, Wong Tai Sin temple has gone through numerous changes, including technological advances and international recognition. For example, every joss stick includes a digital tag to keep track of them and prevent them from being lost or stolen. Nowadays, individuals can even “Kau Cim” online through the Wong Tai Sin temple website or the mobile app. However, this digital form of fortune telling has stirred controversy among old-school followers, as they believe followers can only truly seek for answers by going to the temple in person and showing their sincerity.

Over the years, Wong Tai Sin temple has also gained international recognition and attracted a large number of foreigners and tourists. Due to this phenomenon, the interpreters now provide fortune interpretations in various languages such as English, Mandarin and even Japanese, among others.


In order to decrease the amount of pollution and maintain crowd control, every individual is now limited to nine joss ticks, of which they need to place three joss sticks in three different locations. After placing the joss sticks in the empty spots, kneel down to shake the Chinese fortune sticks and keep repeating your name, date of birth and what you are seeking for in the new year. Keep on shaking until only one stick falls out. After that, keep note of the stick that has fallen down and bring it to an interpreter at the stalls.

The number on the sticks corresponds to different oracle outcomes and come in different levels, such as “up-up”, “up”, “up-medium”, “medium”, “medium-down” and “down-down”. “Up-up” resembles the best fortune out of any given circumstance, while “down-down” resembles the worst fortune of a situation. The interpreter will explain your oracle outcome in simple phrases, then you can ask him to discuss the topic in details or ask for suggestions. Please keep in mind that the question should be as specific as possible and related to a short-term goal – if you ask a general question without a specific direction in mind, this may affect the final answer or lead to confusion when interpreting your fortune.