Fortune Cookies for Shanghai


Fortune cookie fortunes

Some Americans, not realizing that fortune cookies were invented in their own country, are dismayed by the lack of fortune cookies in China. It’s a fun little tradition.

I was equally surprised, then, to discover fortune cookies in Shanghai recently. Some company was offering free fortune cookies at Zentral (a yuppie restuarant). The catch, of course, is that there’s advertising on one side of the fortune slips.

On a side note, one thing that really annoys me about fortune cookies is when my fortune is not even a fortune. Take these fortunes for example. “Home is where the heart is” is not a fortune! You get fortunes like these all the time. I don’t want some cute motto, I want a fortune. I want to know what my future holds. The more specific, the better. For example, “you have only three days to live” would be an awesome fortune to get. It doesn’t have to be true; in fact, I rarely make my major life decisions based on fortune cookie fortunes. (Take note, fortune cookie makers.)


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I was just talking about American food today. (You know I talk about food all the time, it’s a favorite pasttime) – but some of the items rifled off were: hamburgers, hot dogs, buritto’s and fortune cookies! Notice how the latter two are symbolically foreign culture foods but made for American consumption and taste.

    Interestingly enough, another American food is Taco Bell and on the same topic, they use their hot sauce packets to tell fortune-like sayings and gimmicky statements like “Will you marry me?” and “When I grow up, I want to be a waterbed.” Anyways, it’s all silly but it does make a statement. I’ll take a grilled stuft burrito with guacamole and sour cream and a steak quesedilla, thank you.

    P.S. Do they have hot sauce packets at the Shanghai Taco Bell? From your previous reports, it’s more of a sit down restaurant (like Pizza Hut) and they serve Corona’s.

  2. Fortune cookies are great! Predictions of your future on one side and Chinese language education on the other. Where else can you find that my friend? Pinyin that doesn’t match the characters and if the pinyin is correct there are no tone markings. Nothing but the best!

    I’m not aware of the Taco sauce packet stuff, but Snapple likes to put “Real Facts” on the bottom of their bottle caps. At least it’s somewhat interesting.

  3. flipyrface Says: October 12, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    they should put lines from the oracle bone inscriptions (w/ translations) in there and maybe toss down some yijing hexagrams w/ interpretations. obi might not be very useful or relevant in most cases. at least you’ll know if you’ll have a bumper crop or if you should go to war should the occasion arise.

  4. I concur on the fortunes. Why stick to tired old aphorisms like, “Your stars are lucky” and instead take a real chance?

    Fortune cookie writers need to be bold. For example: “Upon leaving the restaurant, you’ll be hit by a bus. Take evasive action” or “Turn around. Your wife is sleeping with that guy right over there.”

    As for the witticisms on a taco ball sauce packet, they ought rightly to include a few on the theme of “You’ll probably regret your choice of dinner in about 3-4 hours.” And now I’m off to buy a Grilled ‘Stufft’ burrito…

  5. The strangest fortune cookie I ever got was the one that read, “HELP! I am trapped inside a fortune cookie factory!” It was a desperate cry for help, scrawled in splotchy, dark red letters. I wonder if they ever found that guy…

  6. 在中国过了二十一年,从来没见过,也没听说过中国有fortune cookies这玩意儿,我第一次知道这东西是从Hollywood的电影里看到,还以为是编出来的……老外就是喜欢把东方想的神神密密,而且,西方电影中的中国人都怪里怪气的!

  7. i am amassing a collection of fortunes that teach chinese by giving chinese character and pinyin in the back. Often the characters and pinyin have no relavance to each other. It is made by a particular company in new york, whose name I can’t remember without digging out my fortunes nad photos…. hmm… perhaps I should send Chinese Pod a box =)

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