TAIWAN – If you go into most Buddhist temples in Taiwan, you'll notice — through all the incense smoke — people throwing two crescent-shaped wood blocks on the floor. They're asking the divine spirits for advice, and there is a particular set of rules one must follow to do so. You don't necessarily have to be Buddhist to do this. I like to view it as a free public advice forum.
But you should do it right. Here's how.
1. First, you must bai bai, or show your respect to the gods. To do so, simply put your hands in prayer position and bow your head a few times. Incense optional.
2. Next, pick up two crescent-shaped blocks and hold them in your hands. Think strongly about the question you'd like answered, and cast them onto the floor in front of you.
3. If and only if the blocks land so that one is facing up and the other downwards, you have permission to move forward. You have three tries. If by the third, the blocks aren't cooperating, it means that at the moment, your question cannot be answered. Try another question.
4. Once you've gotten the go-ahead, you may draw, at random, a stick from a large pot. On that stick will be a number.
5. Find a chest of drawers with numbers on them and locate yours. Pull out the drawer to reveal slips of paper. Voila! Your fortune. You may also take your fortune to the window where volunteers sit and help interpret the advice from the gods. Some of them speak English, but it's definitely handy to have a Mandarin speaker around to translate.
WHERE TO GET YOUR FORTUNE
Lungshan Temple (take the MRT to Longshan Temple Station) and Xing Tian Temple (get off at Xingtian Temple MRT Station) are popular and easily accessible temples in Taipei. There will most likely be an English-speaking employee who can help.
Inset photos from top: Kudumomo / Flickr; Jordan Blumberg