China is officially an atheist country, but that does not mean that there is not a vibrant spirituality in the country. Interest in New Age-type spirituality has soared in recent years in China. And, as this article from the journal Territory points out, young people are particularly drawn to these types of practices.
Due to its length, this article is divided into two parts. This is part one.
Constellations, Tarot, and Horoscopes
The 2021 Starting Point for Young People
On Weibo,1 there are all kinds of astrologers and they attract millions of followers; on Bilibili2 there are more than 16 million users browsing discussions about tarot. Now that the difficult year of 2020 has passed, lots of people are busy trying to determine their chances of fortune or a happy marriage. In the ever-moving river of this generation of young people, while fun old atheism is no longer chief, they follow their own ways in choosing what to believe and how to go about believing, and in this confusing chaos try to find spells to improve their ability to feel in control and safe.
How unruly are these kids? On the one hand they turn up their noses at the fengshui of their parents; on the other, they lose themselves in astrology, fortune-telling, and tarot. On Weibo, every kind of astrologer attracts millions of followers; on Bilibili, tarot masters have a huge platform for their skills, with more than 16 million users browsing discussions about tarot. If you open up Taobao and search for “fortune telling,” amongst the great pile of online sellers which appear, the ones with the highest sales can even attain over 20,000 orders a month.
Fengshui horoscopes, the Eight Trigrams,3and glyphomancy,4 the god of dreams’ dream interpretations. They sound like something a mystical old man would serve up as a routine in a booth at the side of the road, but now they’ve caught the internet’s zeitgeist and have become the popular culture of the young. For example, when the foremost astrologers on Weibo send astrology news to their millions of fans, at the same time they are cooperating with Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., and Proctor and Gamble to sell branded goods. An astrology app’s product report indicated that its users were mostly in the 19-34 age group, with more than 50% of users aged between 19 and 24. These people like to look at their horoscopes as part of their daily routine, to understand their fates according to the stars.
Last year, no one predicted a pandemic would force everyone to stay at home for such a long time, or that if you wanted to date someone, you’d have to wear a mask. However, this has had no impact whatsoever on the start of the new year: there are once more many people starting to busy themselves online with predictions about their fortunes and marriage prospects for this year. For, when a danger with such large scope appears, and people face a future they cannot control, reading the stars or tarot cards can provide a way to forecast things and explain the world. These things help people thread together past causes and future consequences into a coherent story. It seems like the story makes sense of everything—things are not out of control.
Of course, we are born with a love of being in control and hate being out of control. What to believe? How to go about believing it? How deep should your beliefs go? It is all up to you. At the end of the day, these things can relieve your inner anxiety, and you don’t have to accept a package of moral requirements like some of those religious people.
When you feel under pressure, you can access the universe’s hard disk.
Is their horoscope correct? Experts who research the psychology of religion give this answer: When people see their horoscope reading, they pick out the parts that agree with their own thoughts, stepping closer to confirming their own way of thinking, and advancing their self-esteem. For example, “I really am just like a Virgo, because I do have perfectionist tendencies.” People think that astrology and tarot help them better understand themselves, and make them happy. Actually, it is only that they give one’s pre-existing self-impression a way to find what looks like reliable proof.
When compared with traditional superstitions, this generation of young people is really pushing out the old to bring in the new: They highly value a pragmatic approach to superstitions. This pragmatic approach is mostly related to the environment they live in. In 1982, psychology scholar Graham Tyson discovered in his research that people were approaching astrologers for counseling because they were facing life’s pressures, particularly pressure in personal relationships or regarding their positions in society.
As can be seen, the generation born in the 90s is already providing the hard core of strength for society. As the report “Pressures on the 90s Generation of China” stated, the reason the average level of happiness in the 90s generation is low is because they are under a lot of pressure: currently, 47.9% of the people who habitually work overtime were born in the 90s, and their average monthly salary is only 4000 Yuan; mortgage costs take an average of 43.5% of their monthly income. Work, courtship, housing, raising children—these have already become four towering mountains for the 90s generation.
There is a huge market for many kinds of astrology, tarot readings, and fortune-telling that address questions of romantic prospects. For example: “What are your hopes of walking down the aisle this year?”, “How attractive will your partner be?”, “What kind of man is most suitable for you to marry?”, “What are your chances of finding love in the coming week?” and so on. Online commenters have left breathless comments: “It was so correct!”, “It was right from the start!”, “My wishes have come true: I’m with an absolute god of a man now!” As you can see from this, young people are facing anxieties about their choice of marriage partner. Pressure forces people to search for spiritual comfort.
When people feel under pressure in the workplace, they search for spiritual things in order to get help or comfort. Donald W. McCormick, in his work “Corporate Workplace Life,” wrote, “The competitiveness engendered by stress weakens co-operation, trust, honesty, and other such moral qualities in the workforce. In this kind of situation, people mired in difficulties will grasp at assistance from anything that can help them survive, even if it only has temporary effects—which is hardly surprising. More and more people endure day upon day of struggle. Many managers have discovered that fusing the spiritual with their work lives can give a deep meaningfulness to their work.”
In a volume called The Executive Mystic: Psychic Power Tools for Success, author Barrie Dolnick claims that “psychic abilities” are a supernatural sense and sight; they can eliminate time constraints, and appropriately change or influence matters. The writer illustrates this with examples of this kind of power. She describes the method for “future transport powers” which can not only create ways through traffic jams and create parking spaces where there were none, but even delay a flight from taking off. Putting an amethyst crystal next to your computer can make you feel calm. Bringing a clear quartz crystal with you when you travel can make your business trips feel stress-free.
She boldly promises the reader that grasping these “tools” can give them a bright future: “No matter what area you work in, you can create for your workdays a better, more efficient, more satisfying, and more successful career. Psychic tools can help you attract opportunities, improve your character and the character of others to the highest degree, eliminate your colleagues’ negative emotions, plan more productive meetings, make better employment decisions, establish more profitable organizations, and improve your abilities, even allowing you to break free from endless surrounding chaos and disturbances.”
The book also recommends many other practices, including using tarot cards, using the I’Ching (also called the Book of Changes) to predict the future, and using the phases of the moon, along with carrying protective talismans and magic appropriate to various different situations. People who are worried that their colleagues will negatively influence them can sprinkle a little sea salt at the door of their office; the author claims this can “cleanse” the people entering your surroundings. “Because psychic power is much greater than you as an individual—your power is being connected to the ‘universe’s hard disk’—you are also being entrusted with the powers of the universe.” From the gigantic market for these kinds of books it can be seen that the number of readers who are attracted to them is much higher than we would have imagined.
Part two of this article will be posted next week.
Original Article: 星座、塔罗、命相：这届青年的2021启动模式 by Territory (WeChat ID: newjingjie)
Translated, edited, and reposted with permission.
- Editor’s note: A microblogging platform in China similar to Twitter.
- Editor’s note: A video-sharing platform in China similar to Tik Tok.
- Editor’s note: See “Bagua,” Bagua,” Wikipedia
- Editor’s note: See “Fortune telling by dissecting Chinese characters,” see 拆字 (caak3 zi6 | chai1 zi4) : glyphomancy – CantoDict (sheik.co.uk)
Image Credit: By Roberto Viesi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.
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