Moon Blocks: Taiwan

Photo by luizclas on

Jiao bei, or moon blocks, are a Chinese divination tool used in the temples of Taiwan and, I’m reliably informed, Hong Kong.

Typically made of bamboo or wood, moon blocks bear the crescent shape of their namesake and come in red, red and red. Which makes them look less like the moon and more like wooden chili peppers, or the voluptuous red lips of a Muppets character.

Flat on one side, curved on the other, Jiao Bei are binary divination tools. This means they’re a lot easier to use than your smelly old runes or stinking tarot cards.

Take that, Madam Sylvia!
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on

That said, there is a ritual performed before their use that involves prayer, incense, a series of bows and very specific details for the Gods.

So that they have all the facts before they answer.

Once all this is completed, the Jiao Bei are cast into the air and their position on landing provides the answer to your burning and highly-detailed question.

If they land with one curved side up and one curved side down that, my friends, is a yes.


Anything other than that means no.

According to some websites, two curved sides down means “laughter”. However, I couldn’t confirm this with my Chinese friends. Maybe the slight wobble of the blocks is supposed to allude to the laughter of the Gods.

In other words, your question is downright laughable and maybe it’s time you stopped asking whether you will ever be on the cover of Teen Vogue.

Knock it off, Grandma!
Photo by Edu Carvalho on

Anyway, when I discovered that moon blocks were sold in just about every souvenir store in Taipei, I took that as a message from the Gods that I should buy a pair.

I wasn’t planning on telling my fortune with them. I just wanted to have them to remind me of the few minutes I spent in a corner of Lungshan Temple in Taipei; watching locals toss the red slivers into the air, listening to them clatter onto the stone floor and wondering if anyone got the answers they wanted.


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