WORDS BY Tu Hsinyi
TRANSLATION BY Joe Henley
PHOTOS BY Huaug Jianbin, Liang Zhongxian, Susi Paku
According to Taiwanese folk tales, Zhinu, also known as the Seven Star Maiden (七娘), will reveal a book listing all the unmarried men and women on Qixi (the day of July 7 of the lunar calendar) each year. After Yue Lao, or Old Man under the Moon, receives the book, he will start matching people in it based on their personalities and orientation. Then he will come to the mortal world and use a red string to bind a man and a woman by their feet. The string will guide the two to each other and choose one another as their mate. However, Yue Lao is quite a busy man. If you want to be blessed by him, you should visit his temple, follow the orders of the abbot, and pray to him or Guanyin. (Related article: 15 suggestions for a day in Dadaocheng)
What To Do When Visiting Yue Lao
If it’s your first-time visiting Yue Lao or Guanyin, you can prepare some tributes such as sugar or candy (implying sweetness), as well as jujubes, which imply early coupling, wolfberries (implying fortune), and joss paper. Your clothing and appearance should be as clean and tidy as possible. When everything is ready, you must visit the primary god of the temple first to show respect. Then you can introduce yourself before Yue Lao and Guanyin. In addition to your name, birthday, and address, if you have crush on someone you must give his/her details as well. If you still haven’t met someone you like, you may express your expectation to do so.
Lastly, you can follow the instructions and take a red string from the temple or from the shoulder of Yue Lao. If you’re visiting Longshan Temple, you need to cast a pair of moon blocks (筊杯) to get your instructions. Then, you have to circle around the censer of incense three times with the red string in your hands. Later, you must bring the string with you at all times, or you can just put it under your pillow.
When asking Yue Lao to match the string for you, tributes are only required the first time. Later you can just close your palms to pray, and don’t forget to enhance the strength of the red string you’ve received from him by dousing the string in the smoke of burning incense again. Remember, one red string is enough, and do not ask for more, otherwise a relationship drama full of complexity and entanglements might be encountered.
In Taipei Xia-Hai City God Temple and Longshan Temple, “blessed tea” (平安茶) made from jujubes, wolfberries, and sugar which have been contributed to Yue Lao is prepared. You can have a cup of the hot tea, and its warmth can bring you sweetness and good fortune.
Additionally, if you want to improve your fortune, you can choose an auspicious time to visit Yue Lao or Guanyin. Besides Valentine’s Day and Qixi, another two days with a full moon, including the Lantern Festival and the birthday of Yue Lao (August 15 in the lunar calendar), are also perfect timing to pray for good luck in love.