Ten Years, named best picture at the recent Hong Kong Film Awards, imagines the city a decade from now and the future it paints isn’t a pretty one. The anthology of short films is a mixed bag: from a couple of unsubtle clarion calls that thwacked our heads with their message to an obtuse modern-day fable that confused and then bored me. The grim future that Ten Years predicts doesn’t sit well with Beijing but it has resonated with many in Hong Kong.
As in the past, the Chinese use a variety of ways to foretell the future – from tracking heavenly bodies to shaking a canister of fortune sticks, a familiar sight in Hong Kong.
More than 3,000 years ago, the people of the Shang dynasty (late 1500s BC-1046BC) used a technique called pyro-osteomancy, in which the resultant cracks on animal bones (“osteo”) and shells that had been heated over a fire (“pyro”) were interpreted as signs foretelling future events. Over time, the procedure became ritualised and a preserve of the royal court, with the questions for the oracle inscribed on the bones. Tens of thousands of these shells and bones have been uncovered and the inscriptions on them, or jiaguwen (“shell-bone script”), better known as oracle bone script, is the earliest form of modern written Chinese.