The Mahjong Oracle
The following is an excerpt from the book 'The fortune tellers MahJong'
and has inspired me much with regard to tarot cards. As I experienced that
the book can no longer be purchased, I have decided to distribute parts
of it so that others can also enjoy.
The Bamboo Cards
1 Bamboo PEACOCK
Being the first card, 1 Bamboo signifies success; but this brings pride,
which may lead to vanity. The Peacock is the emblem of beauty, and represents
a lady, in the prime of her life, gazing in a mirror. For the Chinese,
the mirror is the symbol of the cosmos; the lady may be admiring her own
reflection, or she may herself be reflecting on her own mortality. The
mirror frequently indicates a change of direction in life.
2 Bamboo DUCK
The Chinese believe that a pair of ducks remain together for life - so
the symbolism of the Duck is an enduring partnership. It is the ideal response
for anyone enquiring about their romantic prospects, whereas in questions
of business it represents a firm partnership. The significance of the Duck
will be enhanced if the cards East (representing the querent) and West
(the partner) also appear.
3 Bamboo TOAD
Where Westerners perceive the flecks on the Moon's surface to be the face
of the 'Man in the Moon', the Chinese regard them as representing two creatures
- the Hare and the Toad. The Hare is credited with knowledge of the recipe
for the elixir of life; but the traditional three-legged Toad, while being
another symbol of long life is, also a sign of the unattainable. This card
is associated with medicine and healing, and though it represents both
sickness and cure, when positively aspected it usually represents recovery
from illness. In a bad position, however, depending on the context it represents
4 Bamboo CARP
The Carp is a symbol of tranquillity and inner calm which leads to a long
life. Passing its days slowly and sedately, the Carp inspires the sage
to contemplation, freeing him from the besetting cares and pressures of
modem life. The Carp's rich colours symbolize wealth and refinement.
This card, therefore, signifies peace and contentment, and freedom from
anxiety. It reveals recovery from ill health, and long life. It indicates
peace of mind - although it does not necessarily mean that troubles will
be over; it may mean that one has come to terms with a difficult situation,
so suggesting a compromise has been achieved. Associated with Water (6
Bamboo) it signifies wisdom, a long journey or continuing correspondence.
5 Bamboo LOTUS
The opening Lotus signifies new birth. The mystical symbolism is of a spiritual
awakening, while on a more material level it indicates the birth of a child.
Frequently, this card appears to those who have recently undergone an uplifting
experience or, at the other extreme, endured some severe loss, financially
or otherwise, resulting in the need to come to terms with the present and
begin life anew. In such cases the new-born child represents the new direction
which life can now take. Often, those who have received what may have been
seen as an insurmountable set-back in their careers will find that life
still has a great deal to offer, for people frequently have rich, untapped
veins of resources which can now be called upon. There may be unfulfilled
ambitions which now have the possibility of being realized. As the great
Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, 'What may appear to be a calamity often
gives rise to fortune.' Those who have suffered some personal loss will
eventually come to terms with their situation. The opening flower may hint
at the passing of grief.
6 Bamboo WATER
The element Water signifies communication. This may be in the form of correspondence,
or travel. More often it refers to frequent short journeys, such as regular
commuting, rather than a lengthy single journey which is sometimes signified
by the Carp (4 Bamboo) in certain positions. But if the Water card is repeated
in different sectors of the spread (for example in the North and South
sectors) it suggests the crossing of water. If Water appears with West,
it indicates a visitor from a foreign country.
In any cases where the question concerns travel, correspondence or documentation,
examine the adjoining cards to determine what other factors are liable
to exert an influence on the situation.
7 Bamboo TORTOISE
More often than not, the Tortoise card reveals that the querent is dissatisfied
with the time taken for matters to be resolved. But there is far more to
the symbolism of this card than the Tortoise's lethargic progress. This
creature, living to a great age, has become the symbol of longevity - and
since it manages to live so long, it must necessarily be experienced and
wise. Another meaning of this card therefore, is 'knowledge'.
The Tortoise is one of the four great Chinese astrological constellations,
covering the northern part of the sky, and so is associated with the North,
Winter and Water - the element of the North. It is regarded as very fortunate
if the Tortoise is found in the North sector of the board, next to the
North card, or combined with Water (6 Bamboo).
8 Bamboo MUSHROOM
In Chinese painting and sculpture, gods are often depicted holding a strange,
whorled object which represents the magic fungus of immortality.
The intriguing nature of the Mushroom - a plant lacking flowers or leaves
and yet resembling both - led to its being a symbol of the bizarre. This
card, depicting the fungus of immortality, is therefore a sign of something
out of the ordinary course of events. It is a sign of something remarkable,
or curious, which causes people to wonder. This may be the result of an
unexpected turn of events, or someone's behaviour suddenly becoming completely
out of character. It often reveals a highly individual personality who
is not afraid of being unconventional, perhaps making a bold decision to
break with tradition.
In general terms, it may refer to some future occurrence, as yet unknown,
but so extraordinary that the querent will be obliged to recall the oracle's
foreknowledge of a remarkable event. Whether or not the event is favourable
is immaterial, for the circumstances are entirely unexpected.
9 Bamboo WILLOW
When the cold winds of winter blow, the Willow tree bends before it, but
once the winds have passed, it regains its posture, now clad in a fresh
mantle of greenery. Thus the symbolism of the Willow is strength through
flexibility. Diplomacy is the keynote. It may be best to comply with the
wishes of the stronger; set-backs are only temporary, after which one is
able to return, now revitalized.
The Willow also has healing powers - aspirin is actually a synthetic
preparation of a natural medicament found in the bark of the Willow tree.
This is perhaps the reason why the Willow is associated with mourning -
it helps to soothe the troubled heart.
The Circles Cards
1 Circles PEARL
The first of the Circles cards is crowded with symbolism. Mah Jongg gamesters
call this card 'the Moon from the Bottom of the Sea' - a delightful way
to describe a pearl.
To the Chinese, pearls indicate refinement - but it is the refinement
of the connoisseur, so suggesting luxury and wealth. In a fortunate position,
it refers to the acquirement of honour: when unfavourably placed it indicates
2 Circles PINE
The Pine tree's firmness and strength suggest a young man; it may mean
a lover, a younger brother, or son, depending on the context of the question.
If the querent is asking about one of two men - as, for example, of rival
suitors - it refers to the younger, or more specifically, the gentler or
more dependable of the two. Not only does the Pine's ability to weather
the severest storms indicate a resolute person, it also suggests someone
skilled in writing, or drawing (as distinct from painting). This is because
the wood of the Pine makes the finest charcoal, and its soot the finest
ink. Thus here we have someone who uses diplomacy against violence - the
pen being mightier than the sword.
3 Circles PHOENIX
The Phoenix of Chinese legend is said to appear only in the reign of a
benign Emperor, when the Earth and Heaven are in Harmony; it therefore
It is the symbol of the Red Bird of Summer, one of the four great Chinese
astrological constellations, and the most appropriate place for it to be
found is therefore in the South, when it signifies a joyous event.
4 Circles JADE
In China, Jade is prized above gold. But when Jade is taken from the ground,
it is a lifeless piece of dull rock. It only acquires value when time,
work and skill have transformed the raw stone into an object worthy of
admiration by an Emperor. More than that, Jade does not rust, fade or decay
- its treasure is there for all time. Jade, therefore, represents hard
work, but work to a worthy end. It represents lasting values, long-abiding
friendships, long life, and a sense of justice.
5 Circles DRAGON
The Dragon is the symbol of luck and fortune, and the insignia of imperial
rank. It represents sudden and unexpected fortune, rather than the rewards
of hard work, and is therefore associated with gamblers and gaming. In
a fortunate position it signifies a stroke of good luck, but when badly
aspected means money wasted either through gambling or risky ventures.
6 Circles PEACH
The velvety texture of the Peach, its softness and its fragrance have been
used by many different cultures to express the qualities of feminine beauty.
The appearance of 6 Circles in a spread generally denotes the influence,
appearance, or interference of a young girl.
Where the querent is a young man, the Peach most often represents his
loved one. If the querent is a young girl and, because of the disposition
of the other cards, the 6 Circles is not thought to represent the querent
herself, the Peach may mean a rival. In the case of older querents, the
Peach often represents a daughter or younger sister.
Because ladies of the Emperor's court led an idle and pampered life,
by extension the Peach has come to mean extravagance and indolence. Additionally,
when appearing in the first position, it shows interest in the creative
arts, and matters of feminine interest.
7 Circles INSECT
The Insect here symbolizes industriousness - the silkworm spinning its
thread, the ant building its city, the bees gathering in their food, even
the cheerful cricket.
The Insect card is the counterpart of Jade (4 Circles), Whereas Jade
represents sustained effort bringing lasting reward, the Insect card reveals
bustling activity over a short period, perhaps for no eventual purpose,
but sometimes for some temporary achievement.
The frailty of the Insect also symbolizes weakness; it may therefore
indicate that a situation is not as weighty as imagined. The character
'insect' together with that for 'water' form the combination meaning Rainbow,
again suggesting something transient - a nine-day wonder.
8 Circles TIGER
The Tiger card is the most masculine of all the cards. It symbolizes authority
and bravery, but also aggression. It represents an officer, or person in
uniform, and as such often represents one's superiors, authority the police,
and faceless bureaucrats. It may also reveal the father, other senior male
relatives, or the elder of two boys. Sometimes, if the questioner is male,
and enquiring about personal relationships, depending on the context or
type of question, it may represent the questioner, or an older rival. For
a female enquiring about relationships, it signifies the more physically
dominant of two suitors - the younger man being represented by the Pine
The White Tiger is the constellation of Autumn, and it is particularly
auspicious if the Tiger replaces one of the Autumn Guardians, or appears
next to its associated direction, West.
9 Circles UNICORN
The Unicorn of Chinese mythology - one of the signs of the reign of a good
Emperor - was regarded as having the power to see into the future, a talent
which was passed on to those mortals who gazed into pools of water by the
light of its burning horn. Accordingly the significance of the Unicorn
card is the ability to foresee events. This sometimes means the gift of
clairvoyance, but more usually it merely indicates a natural prudence which
enables some people to keep always one step ahead of their rivals. Such
people have an innate ability to judge character with uncanny accuracy
- to 'see through' people - although this is a trait that may not always
The Wan Cards
1 Wan ENTERING
The Chinese character for 'one' resembles the bar of a door, so the symbolism
of 1 Wan is that of a barrier being lifted, or a door being opened, bringing
new opportunities and perhaps a new life ahead. Only occasionally is the
symbolism reversed, to mean that the barrier is an obstruction to one's
aims. If the card replaces one of the Guardian cards, it signifies that
although doors may appear to be closed at the moment, they will be opened
2 Wan SWORD (Chien)
The double-edged sword is the symbol of quandary and decision. Whereas
2 Bamboo (Duck) shows a partnership and the joining together of two people,
2 Wan signifies the opposite - severance. There can be no progress while
there are still two; the situation will be a stalemate until some move
is made. The Sword represents the element Metal; its appropriate colour
is white, its season Autumn, and its direction West.
3 Wan EARTH (Ti)
The Earth is one of the five elements of Chinese philosophy; it represents
the fixed centre, and so does not belong to any season or compass direction.
While this card may therefore symbolize the Earth element's attributes,
usually it can be interpreted in the more literal sense of land, estate,
wide open spaces, and the countryside.
The meaning of Earth as an element is stability. With the House (5 Wan)
it presents a picture of a building standing in its own land. When it follows
any card representing travel (such as Water, 6 Bamboo) it shows travel
to another country over water.
4 Wan LUTE (Ch'in)
The Lute represents the performing arts; it is a symbol of leisure, relaxation
and a time for enjoyment after a day's or a lifetime's work. The literal
significance of music is shown by the close proximity of Bamboo cards,
particularly the Carp (4 Bamboo) or Water (6 Bamboo). With the Mushroom
(8 Bamboo) there is an additional sense of the eccentric or 'fringe' performance.
When the card is close to the industrious cards Jade (4 Circles) or the
Insect (7 Circles) it symbolizes reward for honest toil.
5 Wan HOUSE (Fang)
The House represents any building: it may be the home, place of business,
administrative offices, school or hospital. The essence of this card is
that it signifies the tangible fabric of a building - the walls and roof
- rather than its being the symbol of an organization or society. This
is particularly the case when the House card appears in conjunction with
Entering (1 Wan) (the symbol of a door), when it reveals the querent actually
entering the building, or Earth (3 Wan), when it shows a building standing
in its own grounds.
6 Wan FIRE (Huo)
Fire is the third of the five elements of Chinese philosophy, representing
the personal attributes of intelligence and inspiration. Yet of all the
cards which comprise the Mah Jongg oracle, this is the card that gives
the gravest warning of dange. It indicates the burning up of resources,
mental, physical, and financial, and in combination with certain cards
is a foreboding of accident to person or property.
7 Wan SEVEN STARS
Whereas Fire (6 Wan) represents intelligence, the Stars indicate imagination.
The Seven Stars represented are the stars which form the familiar pattern
of the Plough, part of the Great Bear of western astronomy. The ancient
Chinese believed that this constellation was the seat of the gods, particularly
the god of Literary Excellence. Consequently, this card may refer to writing,
mathematics, or literature, particularly if it appears in conjunction with
the Pine (2 Circles). With Water (6 Bamboo) it indicates journals, diaries,
and accounts. In the East, the Stars indicate a literary person, frequently
a dreamer rather than someone who Can put ideas into action.
8 Wan KNOT (Chieh)
This is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the Mah Jongg oracle cards, for
it represents both the tying and the untying of a Knot. Perhaps more than
any other card, the true meaning of the Knot can only be understood in
the context of whatever question was presented to the oracle, and the cards
which are to the side of the Knot.
If the Sword (2 Wan) is close by, then the meaning is at once apparent:
a knot has to be severed. But with the Duck (2 Bamboo) which represents
a partnership, the Knot is obviously being tied. The Knot is a sign of
problems and anxieties. When it appears in the East, representing the querent,
it reveals indecision. If it appears in the first or third positions, it
shows other people get the impression that the querent is not sufficiently
determined If in the middle (second) position it shows inner fears and
9 Wan HEAVEN
The Heaven card represents completion. But it does not mean an end, for
when one cycle ends, another naturally begins. When the Heaven card appears
next to that of the House (5 Wan), it represents the Temple; it only needs
the Door (Entering 1 Wan) to obtain the picture of someone entering the
Temple to take part in a solemn celebration. If Heaven and Earth are next
to each other, it signifies that when the events on Earth follow Heaven's
laws everything is in order, and happiness and prosperity abound.
The Honours Cards
The Chinese character for 'east' shows the sun rising behind the trees.
In the game of Mah Jongg the dealer sits in the East position; in the oracle,
the East represents the querent, and the present situation. The East card
indicates that at the time associated with the card's location, the querent
will be involved in an incident which will prove to be of lasting importance.
The East is associated with the Spring and the colour green; its astrological
constellation is the Dragon (5 Circles) and its element Wood.
The life-giving Sun occupies the realms of the South, symbolized by luxuriant
vegetation. Because of this, for thousands of years Chinese Emperors took
care to have their palaces built with the throne room facing south, so
enabling the Emperor to look on his divine parent.
The South is therefore considered the most fortunate direction, and
always indicates success. The appearance of the South card is therefore
regarded as extremely propitious, since it promises a favourable outcome
for any affair represented by the cards next to it.
It is associated with the Summer, the colour red, the astrological constellation
of the Phoenix (3 Circles) and the element Fire.
The West represents the objective - that which the querent has to face.
It may be a partner - in life, or in business - or it may represent obstacles.
Whenever the querent asks a question on behalf of another, the West
will represent the other person.
The West's associated season is the Autumn, its colour white, its astrological
constellation is the Tiger (8 Circles), and its element Metal.
The North, being the region never visited by the Sun. is regarded as an
inauspicious direction. representing cold, famine, difficult times, privation
and discomfort. Thus the North card indicates a cold wind, meaning a drain
on resources, a period of unhappiness, worry, and conflict with authority.
Sometimes it represents a person in authority - the senior employer or
The North is associated with Winter and the colour black; its astrological
constellation is the Tortoise (7 Bamboo) and its element Water.
Although the Chinese name of this card means 'to commence' it is usually
called the 'Green Dragon' by western Mah Jongg players because in ivory
sets the character Fa is invariably engraved in green ink. The Chinese
character is a stylized representation of a bow being drawn, with an arrow
ready to be fired. It is considered one of the Three Blessings when it
appears in the first position in the spread that is the card on the far
left in the East sector, as this is the first card to be turned up after
the Centre card. In this position it denotes a forthright and ambitious
person, destined to achieve success.
This card is known to western Mah Jongg players as the 'Red Dragon' since
the Chinese character Chung meaning 'Centre' or 'Middle' is traditionally
in red ink on the tiles of ivory Mah Jongg sets. This simple character
clearly represents an arrow striking the centre of a target; it is the
counterpart of the 'Commence' card, which shows the arrow about to leave
The Centre is the fixed point of the five directions, associated with
the element Earth, and the colour yellow. Its astrological constellation
consists of the stars which rotate round the Pole Star and is represented
by the Seven Stars (7 Wan).
This card shows the achievement of objectives, success, fame, and the
realizations of ambitions.
The White card, called the 'White Dragon' by western Mah Jongg players,
was originally a spare blank one which eventually became accepted as a
card in its own right. This card can be interpreted on two levels. Being
blank, it represents the mysterious unknown, while the more prosaic interpretation
is a white piece of paper waiting to be written on - the reply to a letter,
or a contract about to be signed. Which of these two interpretations pertains
depends very much on the overall circumstances, taking into account the
type of querent, the nature of the question, and the associated cards in
The White card frequently appears more than once in readings given to
those who are deeply interested in spiritual or religious matters, and
is a sign of mystical involvement. To the Chinese, white is frequently
associated with departed spirits. In cases where there has recently been
a bereavement, this card can be interpreted as a sign of comfort. Associated
cards which stress the spiritual side of White are the eight Guardian cards
and Heaven (9 Wan).
The more commonplace interpretation of White is to be found when the
question posed is of a more material nature, while the relevance of the
associated cards should also be taken into account. The Earth card (3 Wan)
is a clear direction that spiritual matters are not under consideration,
while the Pine (2 Circles) represents the ink waiting to be put on the
The Eight Guardians
After the starvation, cold and privations of Winter, vivid blossoms clothe
the plum trees in a blaze of colour even before the leaves have budded.
It is one of the first signs of Spring, itself the time of romantic love
and awakening life. Thus the Plum Blossom symbolizes innocence and inexperience.
For the young - and the young at heart - who are happily tied in romance,
the Plum Blossom reflects happiness. It is the sign of renewed vitality,
a new life, and all the fortune it brings.
The Plum Blossom Guardian card is in its most appropriate position in
the East, or when near to an East card. Because the East also represents
the querent, the Plum Blossom card refers back to the querent's personal
situation, providing mental and physical protection, but guarding particularly
against emotional stresses.
This is, therefore, a welcome card when there are inner anxieties, unexplained
depression, problems which the querent is afraid to face, or an apparent
sense of unwelcome personal obligation which is difficult to define. In
such cases, the card taken to replace the Plum Blossom Guardian should
be seen as the clue to the unravelling of those problems; once the situation
is faced squarely, the nagging feelings of doubt and unease will be dismissed.
This response will be doubly underlined if the card drawn to replace the
Plum Blossom Guardian is the Knot (8 Wan), while the Sword (2 Wan) is a
remonstration to cut oneself off from an involvement which is proving to
be a wasteful drain on one's resources.
The Orchid is no common plant, and its pleasures are reserved for the privileged
few It indicates refinement, and is also a symbol of the rare and precious.
The essence of refinement is a contInual process of improvement until
absolute perfection is reached, and this quality is indicated when the
card drawn to cover the Orchid is Jade (4 Circles). These cards then reveal
that great honours are in store as the reward for continually striving
to attain the highest standards.
The more material sense of precious treasure is revealed when the Orchid
is replaced by the Pearl (1 Circles) or the Peach (6 Circles), when the
Orchid indicates that something - or someone - of great value is being
protected. The Orchid Guardian protects young girls, and if it appears
in response to a question about a daughter or younger female relative,
it serves to allay any anxieties regarding their welfare.
Being the flower representing the Summer season, it is appropriate for
this card to appear in the South sector, or next to one of the South cards;
in such a case it indicates future prosperity.
When it appears with a card said to be in an unfavourable position,
it offers protection against the difficulties shown by the replacement
The Chinese regard the splendid Chrysanthemum as the symbol of the Sun,
its golden petals radiating like sun-beams. Indeed, a stylized representation
of the Chrysanthemum is used in the eastern world as the solar symbol.
But it is its appropriateness for the Autumn season that is perhaps the
most important meaning imparted by this card. A charming Chinese story
tells of an Empress who dearly loved her husband. But she was growing older
and her husband, as was customary, had decided to take another, younger
wife. Sadly, she asked him 'What am I to you now that you have this lady
to attend to you?' The Emperor smiled at her kindly, and replied gallantly,
'Like a chrysanthemum in Autumn'.
Chosen by a mature lady, this card reveals grace, charm, and kindness
- qualities which this card lends to the Peacock ( 1 Bamboo) which also
represents a matron. If the querent is obviously not intended, this combination
of Chrysanthemum and Peacock will represent an older female relative, revealing
her to be contented with her life and surrounded by the joys which a happy
The Autumn season is the time of harvest and wine making. Its ancient
astrological symbol, a wine flask, signifies merriment, jollity, retirement
The Chrysanthemum Guardian represents pleasure, social activities, holidays
and entertainment. The most appropriate cards to be drawn to replace it
are the Lute (4 Wan) and the West, which is the symbol of Autumn.
The Bamboo has ten thousand uses, but short stems of bamboo are perhaps
most familiar as the stems of the Chinese brush, used in China not only
for painting, but for writing, too. Less familiar is the Chinese pen, a
simple stem of bamboo with its end carved as a nib.
It is not so surprising therefore, that the Bamboo Guardian is associated
with writing, learning and scholarship. Thus, it indicates help in the
form of a communication or document, particularly the announcement of success
The strength of the Bamboo, and the fact that it grows upright, are
both symbols of the desired qualities in a young man, and it is sometimes
held to be the model of virtuous behaviour. If the Pine (2 Circles) is
drawn to replace the Bamboo Guardian, then it affirms the Pine's symbolism
of a youth, but also affirms that the person is honest and true.
Even so, it can be considered an especially favourable sign when the
card drawn to replace the Bamboo is, appropriately, one of the Bamboo suit,
for then it underlines the sense of the written word in interpreting the
cards. For example, with 5 Bamboo (Lotus, also meaning a child) it brings
news of a birth, while with 6 Bamboo (Water, also meaning communication)
it represents fortunate news with regards to a document. It frequently
represents recovery from illness.
The other associated card is North, the direction of Winter. If this
is drawn, it means that there will be help and protection through a difficult
The Fisherman often depicted in Chinese miniatures represents the ancient
philosopher Chiang T'ai Kung. He was discovered by King Wen of the Chou
dynasty (who is attributed with the compilation of the commentaries to
the I Ching). In discussion with the Fisherman, King Wen found him to be
extremely wise, and took him to his court to be his prime minister. The
Fisherman's philosophy was simple common sense; the ruler who got rich
while his people suffered would not last long. The application to modern
times is that good management leads to good working relationships which
in turn brings prosperity to all. The Fisherman-philosopher is also renowned
for his patience, perhaps a tactic he had learnt from his angling days.
The Fisherman is one of the two Guardians of Spring; it is associated
with the direction East, the colour green, and the element Wood. Consequently,
it is appropriate for this card to appear in the East sector, when it refers
to the querent, or next to an East card, in which case it refers to someone
(rather than a situation) very close. When the Fisherman Guardian appears,
it often indicates that dealing with other people will proceed more smoothly
by practising greater tolerance. It suggests that everything is proceeding
along the right path, although this may not be evident at the moment.
If the Fisherman Guardian card appears in an unfavourable position,
or the card drawn to replace the Fisherman seems to indicate adverse circumstances,
then the Fisherman suggests that it would be wisest to wait until a more
opportune moment arrives before taking any steps that may be necessary.
The Woodcutter chopping firewood is an allegorical representation of three
of the five elements of Chinese philosophy; Fire and Wood are two of them,
while Metal is represented by his axe. Fire is a crucial factor which controls
the other two elements. Furthermore, in Mah Jongg, the Woodcutter represents
the Summer, which is governed by the direction South and the element Fire.
The meaning of this card is, therefore, much deeper than might be suspected
from the picture of the simple Woodcutter.
The Fire represented by the Woodcutter Guardian reveals all the positive
influences of vitality, drive, ambition and industry. It also shows someone
holding the balance of power in a conflict. Here is the help needed to
get a project underway. It reveals leadership, teamwork, and success through
activity. The season Summer and the element Fire belong to the direction
South, so it is appropriate for the Woodcutter to appear in the South,
or with the South card, when it is a sign of great prosperity.
The appearance of the Woodcutter, although always a fortunate sign,
is nevertheless an incentive to greater effort, for the rewards will be
great - if not materially, then through promotion, greater recognition,
or increased satisfaction. Indeed, if the woodcutter appears in an unfavourable
position, or with a card that has an adverse interpretation for the querent's
present situation, its message is dearly that the querent should make every
effort to hack a way clear through the present entanglements. This will
be stressed if the Knot (8 Wan) or the Sword (2 Wan) are present anywhere.
Like the Chrysanthemum, the Farmer is another symbol of the Autumn. It
signifies the tasks and toil of bringing in the harvest. Thus, the Farmer
Guardian card indicates physical activity and arduous labour, but nevertheless
labour which brings its own rich rewards.
The Autumn is associated with the West, the colour white, and the element
Metal. Accordingly, it is appropriate for this card to appear with a West
card or in the West sector. As West often refers to one's objectives, the
Farmer shows that difficulties will be surmounted through physical effort.
Note that this card stresses that bodily effort is required - this is not
an oblique reference to perseverance or patience. It is a blunt command
to get up and put one's back into a job.
The appearance of the Earth card (3 Wan) makes an obvious connection
between the Farmer and the land, and can be interpreted at its face value
for those who have land or are considering buying it; it might also refer
to a legacy involving land ready for development.
Broadly speaking, however, the Farmer represents physical effort, a
meaning underlined when Jade (4 Circles) or the Insect (7 Circles) appears
in the spread.
The Scholar above all distinction is the sage Confucius, who begins his
great work, the Analects, with the words: 'Study and practice - what could
give greater pleasure?' The Scholar shown here is carrying a fly-whisk,
which Taoist philosophers would wave to emphasize certain points during
This card is associated with Winter a time when there is little that
can be successfully achieved outdoors: farming, hunting. and building must
all wait for the better weather. During this fallow period, however those
of a cultured mind can turn their attentions to the creation of works of
literary or artistic merit. For the manual worker, the Scholar stresses
that paperwork must not be neglected.
The Scholar and the Bamboo Guardians both pertain to the North, the
colour black, and the element Water (represented by 6 Bamboo). Water itself
symbolizes communication - either through speech, literature, or travel
- but when the Scholar Guardian appears, it is the teaching and learning
aspect of communication which is emphasized. Thus the appearance of this
card is a good sign for all those connected with counselling and education.
If the Scholar appears in the North it indicates literary and scholarly
merit, success in examinations, and recognition in the educational fields.
Those who believe that their practical experience is sufficient for their
success are warned that they may be putting themselves at a disadvantage
because their theoretical knowledge is insufficient.
The Scholar often stresses the need to attend to correspondence, particularly
if the Pine (2 Circles). representing ink, is close by. A spread which
contaIns a high proportion of Bamboo suit cards also underlines the Importance
of the written word.
All credits for this page go to Derek Walters and Amanda
Barlow, who are both responsable for the book "The fortune teller's Mah
jongg", which was published in 1988 by Eddison Sadd. ISBN 0 88162 246-X