Gong Hee Fot Choy is the product of Margarete Ward, a mystic and world traveler who spent a good bit of her life chasing down the arts and traditions of fortune-telling in almost every country. This system (which insists on calling itself a game) was originally published in 1935, and she describes it as a synthesis of the many divination systems she came across in her various travels, especially in China. Indeed, the traditions of mysticism in China, and moreover the people themselves, seem to have struck a chord in her. The name means "Greeting of Riches," but she doesn't offer much of a reason of why the name was chosen, except to say that it gives "a small token of my appreciation of these marvelous people."
The deck featured here is actually completely secondary to the system, which was designed to be able to work with any standard deck of playing cards. The key to the system is the instruction book, which contains a few quick instructions on how to lay out a tableau, and dozens of pages about how to read each card in each position. As an added bonus, editions since 1948 have included a short introduction to astrology, numerology, and mental telepathy. In the introduction, Ward said that so many of her friends asked about these topics that she thought she would just put them in the book and save them all some time and effort.
The introduction to the book, as well as the sections on the other mystical topics, provide fascinating reading (my soul age, the number if times I've been incarnated, is 6, by the way). Naturally, they're far too long to be included here. However, the back of the book contains a nice distillation of the main introduction, and so I offer it here.
"In GONG HEE FOT CHOY, which literally translated means "greetings of riches," I have drawn the best from all the card mystics the world over, especially the Chinese, and have welded this material and improved upon it to such an extent that it is entirely new and different from any other in existence now. According to GONG HEE FOT CHOY, life's odds are three to one in favor of good over evil and it is largely a matter of individual concentration and personal effort which enables each of us to gain the things we desire. By means of GONG HEE FOT CHOY everyone has what I believe to be an infallible method of concentration and by it each person can discover the road to a better and fuller life."
The system revolves around a "board," which in my edition is a folded paper poster, which contains thirty-two rectangles, called houses, each of which corresponds to a particular card. After removing the two-through-sixes of each suit, one is directed to shuffle the thirty-two remaining cards while concentrating on a question or wish, and then to deal them out, one into each house. The reading then proceeds from house to house, interpreting the meaning particular card against the house it appears in. The House of Wishes additionally directs you to examine the house that corresponds to the card laid in it to help explicate the nature of the actual wish or question. There are subtle shadings caused by patterns of cards as they are laid down, which help the experienced reader flesh out the meanings.
Ward several times mentions that concentration is at the core of her system, and that is reflected in her advice for reading the Houses. She cautions against dismissing any of the reading that might seem out of place or nonsensical - the reader or questioner should try to bear in mind at all times all the issues and facets in the problem, and try to see how the meanings of the cards may impact any of them. In some sense, she uses the reading as an excuse for meditative reflection, causing the reader, hopefully, to consider and reconsider every facet of the problem in light of each new card as it's revealed. This would result in the reader going over everything some thirty-two times, a process which alone might well lead people to find their own solutions.
As a pleasant side-benefit, each page of the book has an inspirational quotation on it.
All images Copyright U.S. Games Systems, Stamford Connecticut. All text Copyright 1982, Celestial Arts, Berkeley, California.
Ace of Spades
Seven of Hearts
Jack of Diamonds
Queen of Clubs
I found it interesting that, to my eye, these cards bear a decent resemblance to the Japan costume deck from Ferdinand Piatnik and Sons of Austria, which merely shows how stereotyped the image of rural Chinese is in the West.
Each card has a meaning unto itself, and an interpretation within each of the houses. Ward's book offers all 1,024 combinations, but owing to space, I'm only going to show the interpretations of the above cards in the House of Wishes. Wishes may not be the linchpin of the system, but it's one of the more interesting Houses, and offers the additional benefit that it's not any of the cards I've selected. Happiness in the House of Happiness is pretty blandly delirious; Death in the House of Death is predictaby grisly. The queen of clubs below is the card of the person asking the question, thus the inquirer. The joker is not part of the system, but is presented because I happen to like it.
In the House of Wishes:
SEVEN OF HEARTS (happiness) your wish will be influenced by happiness. This card also represents food, drink and entertainment - good times. Check card in the House of Happiness; if a heart, you will get your wish; if a diamond or club, you will contend with much jealousy; a spade, much opposition.
JACK OF DIAMONDS (letters) your wish pertains to or will be influenced by a letter, telegram, or some other hasty news. Check card in the House of Letters; if a heart, diamond or club - a good chance for your wish; a spade - opposition.
QUEEN OF CLUBS (inquirer) your wish is extremely personal. Check card in the House of Inquirer; if a club - you will get your wish; if a heart or diamond - you should take special note of the message you receive in the House of Inquirer; a spade means opposition.
ACE OF SPADES (death) your wish will be influenced by one of many meanings: death, divorce, separation, incarceration, love, illicit affairs, or the ending of something disagreeable. Check card in the House of Death; if a heart, diamond or club - a chance for your wish; a spade - great opposition.
The suits have a general theme running through them as well. You can clearly see why Ward says that the odds are three to one in favor of good over bad.
The HEARTS represent LOVE and FRIENDSHIP; anything of a personal nature.
The DIAMONDS represent FORTUNE and RICHES, and papers of any kind.
The CLUBS represent LUCK, WISDOM and BUSINESS.
The SPADES represent the UNPLEASANT THINGS of life.