Serial: Overland monthly and Out West magazine.
Title: Palmistry in China and Japan [Volume 23, Issue 137, May 1894; pp. 476-480]
Author: Culin, Stewart
Collection: Making of America Journal Articles
Article URL: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moajrnl/ahj1472.2-23.137/487
Palmistry in China and Japan. placed the noshi. This consists of a piece of colored paper folded nearly in the shape of a horn of plenty. Within it is glued a slip of konbu, our kelp (laminaria), a highly respectable article of food. The colored strings, and the package of konbu, which has been reduced to its smallest terms, signify that the article offered is a gift. It may be observed that presents offered at funerals are tied with but one white string, with short ends instead of long, as is the case with the colored midzuhiki. The noshi and midzuhiki are sometimes cheaply represented by being merely printed on the wrapper of the gift. Physiognomy and palmistry are regarded as among the respectable methods of divination in China. The former is called siung fat, and one who pursues it as a means of livelihood, sgungfat sin shang. Palmistry is called hon cheung, or hon shau chgung, "examination of the palm," and its professor, hon cheung sin shang. They are distinct arts, and are practised as separate professions; but they have so much in common in the empiricism that underlies them that I shall say a few words concerning both of them. The science of physiognomy, as it is understood in China, rests upon the assumption that indices of the good or bad fortune of each individual, for every period of his life, are to be found in the external markings of his head and face. The science of palmistry rests upon the assumption that the fate of each individual in the various relations of life may be discovered in the wrinkles, lines, depressions, and elevations, of the skin on the fingers and palm of his hand. In physiognomy, each portion of the superficial area of the head and face is regarded as referring to a particular year in a man's life; while in palmistry each portion of the superficial area of the inner part of his hand is regarded as re ferring to his traits of character, industry and skill, wealth, honors, and official position, as well as length of days. The interpretation of these signs is not left to the individual judgment or caprice of the fortune-teller. It is all a matter of record, to be found in books on the subject, embodying results, it is to be supposed, of the observations of many generations. Fortune-tellers are esteemed in proportion to their scholarly attainments, and their ability to interpret and understand the records of their predecessors. The Chinese fortune-teller in Philadelphia affects the dress and manner of a man of the literary class, and burns incense before the idol of the God of Literature. This man is a physiognomist. There is no adept in palmistry among the Chinese in Philadelphia. In order to illustrate the subject as it is understood in Southern China, I shall refer to two diagrams of hands in a popular work on physiognomy and palmistry, entitled the "Complete Book FIG. 7 1894.] 479