Where do you look for advice before making important life decisions? Are you the confident type who simply trust their gut or do you tend do consult a seasoned senior, a good friend, someone in the family, or a fortune-teller?
Quaint as it may sound, some young Chinese are choosing the more mysterious sources. Fortune-telling is by no means a new thing in China’s centuries-old civilisation. It’s the cradle of some of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated divination techniques, such as, bazi, which determines a person’s fortune based on the year, month, date and hour of birth, and the traditional Chinese zodiac, featuring 12 animals each representing 12 years, with some years considered more auspicious than others.
While these old techniques remain popular today, the younger generation are being increasingly attracted to horoscopes, online lucky draws and tarot readings.
They check weekly online horoscope forecasts to brace themselves for what is possibly coming; trade the latest gossip about their astrological profiles as a way to break the ice in social situations; list their zodiac signs in their personal profiles on dating websites; and go online for fortune-tellers for advice on everything from relationship to career choices and when to start a family
On the back of their devotion, some has been making big money. The founder of Tondao Dashu, one of the earliest social media accounts publishing zodiac-themed cartoons, once had 12 million fans on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo and many more on WeChat. He then sold his company for 178 million RMB (about US$27 million).
Lately, another “divination tycoon” Tao Baibai has been rising like a rocket. On China’s short video app Douyin, his fans grew by eight million in a single month. Tao Baibai cashed in on his popularity by selling lucky charms priced from dozens to hundreds of RMB. Even a single online live session of selling lipsticks brought him hundreds of thousands of RMB.
On China’s e-commerce platforms, there are many fortune telling stores. The prices they charge go from 30 to 2 000 RMB. A most popular store on Taobao.com is able to receive 50 000 orders a month, which may add up to at least 1,5 million RMB (about US$23 000) with one consultation priced at an average of 50 RMB.
In horoscopes, some of the young are looking for consolation, affirmation, and even excuses for setbacks. In a social environment that is much more stressful than in the past, young people are suffering from greater anxiety and confusion than the older generation. Everyone is running fast and dreads being left behind.
They need a strong heart to brave the day-to-day challenges associated with trying to make it in expensive cities. And they need a “scapegoat” when things fall apart. Horoscopes offer such an external source of confidence and relief — I did not fail because I was poor at it; it was just not my lucky time.
Others are finding it a good way to connect with people. The interactive nature of the internet is making fortune-telling much more fun as users can get real time feedbacks and form interest groups. Finding other people doing the same thing can be a liberating experience. New friendships may start in the process.
But these millennials are not the superstitious type. Having grown up in a country that has experienced stunning growth and witnessed the digital economy churning out many billionaires, they are much more confident and secure in their future than their parents were at the same age.
They believe life is full of possibilities. Horoscopes is just their way staying resilient in a tough world and getting a new perspective from time to time.