"SHOW me a fortune teller who can tell me what racehorse is going to win the
fifth, then I'll believe," a friend used to say, and its tempting to test Madam
Khor-Fong Zhi with something similar.
"When someone walks in my door, I
can tell 50 percent about them and their past and future just by looking at
their face," said the 44-year-old Cambodian-born Chinese.
"I get the
feeling that what we are talking about will be published in a newspaper, not a
Khmer newspaper, but in English, maybe overseas. I get that feeling very
strongly," she said during our interview. It was disappointing - I had already
given her my business card and explained earlier through an interpreter that was
precisely what I wanted to do.
"You work hard, and you're not the boss,
the big boss," she said of me, which is half right, I'm not the "boss". And of
Peng, who was interpreting, she said: "You both are very different. You have
maybe a worry in your heart." ("Yes, but everyone has a worry in their heart,"
Peng said later).
But we did not ask Madam Khor-Fong Zhi about ourselves;
it is plain from her house that she and her husband - a generator repairman -
have built, that she must be good - very good.
When her clients -
Taiwanese, Singaporean and Chinese businessmen, mainly - heard she was about to
build a house, they chipped in, without being asked.
clients promise me that if they make a profit on business deals based on the
fortunes I tell them, they will come back to pay me money," she said. Much of
her work is telling superstitious businessmen whether their deals are going to
be profitable, or when the best times are for them to buy and sell and deal, or
how much money they should invest.
First there was a handful, then a
dozen, then 20, 40, up to 50 businessmen paid her a commission - "they believed
I helped them make their fortunes, their dreams come true" - giving her anything
up to $1,000 each. Her "house" is now a brand-new three-story house in a
fast-growing area of town. She doesn't need to prove herself to a couple of
Madam Khor-Fong Zhi knew she had a "talent" as a
child. She had no teacher, and there was no history in her family of any similar
talent. She turned professional at 28 "for no concrete reasons... I just felt
when I was talking to people that I was above the crowd, floating in the
She said she tells clients both the good and the bad she sees,
though if it is disaster she "will tell half the truth, and indicate in some way
the rest, half I will swallow myself, and try to help them overcome the
Many clients come just because they feel vaguely uneasy, "and
I talk calmly to them and persuade them not to worry
"Ninety-nine percent of my clients are Chinese, because I
don't speak Khmer." She does not advertise, but gets three to five clients a day
and on some days so many she can't see them all. She does housework in the
morning, so only tells fortunes in the afternoon.
She said she refused to
talk to some people immediately as she sensed they only wished to deceive or
hurt others. "Some Vietnamese girls come in and ask for strange things... their
main purpose is to make money however they can. I only want to help people, but
will not talk to them."
Madam Khor-Fong Zhi uses playing cards,
palmistry, "anything is OK" - and while she gives advice on love, life and
whatever is asked of her, her forte is money and business.