Sitting behind his desk looking over his spectacles, Chang Hang Long is writing a poem about Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, among stacks of astrological books. The 61-year-old Chinese astrologer has paid attention to politics since he worked as a translator for Cambodian politicians under Lon Nol’s government. His real passion, however, is astrology.
Ethnic Chinese, but Cambodia-born, Chang is a practitioner of the Chinese art of Feng Shui, or “wind spirit”, an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics believed to use the laws of both Heaven (astronomy) and Earth (geography) to help improve lives by arranging the design of living and working space for the flow of positive energy.
While his colourful past includes volunteering as a soldier, studying and opening a small business that didn’t make enough money, Chang ended up following the same path as his mother who, though she had no formal education, was able to see into the future.
Fluent in Khmer and Chinese, astrologer Chang started reading books on the subject in 1980 – devouring dozens of volumes and comparing the many ways astrology is practiced and interpreted around the world in various traditions.
Chang’s astrological services were offered free of charge at first, enabling him to test his knowledge and grow his business. Today, his desk is covered with pictures and his wall with invitations. Though he remains voluntarily vague about the number of clients he receives, he admits he only has bad luck once in a month.
Chang has grown very popular among the Chinese community.
“Chinese people do care about astrology, even more than the Cambodians,” he says. Chang says astrology precedes every important step of the average Chinese life, from a wedding to the building of a house or a child’s birth. And some people’s belief in astrology is so strong that if the birth signs really do not work together, they believe it would be sheer madness to marry. Customers also regularly ask Chang to check a date to be sure it is the perfect one to take a new step in their life.
Chang never gets on a bus or in a car without having asked the driver his birth sign: “I look at what time it is and I ask him to be careful if it’s necessary,” he says. He not only specialises in birth signs – he can also read people’s hands and faces, depending on the size and the shape of their features.
“But I’m not doing an easy job,” he says, bemoaning the fact that so many people, especially when they are educated,are non-believers in astrology. Chang’s customers who do believe, however, are often important and rich people who pay him $222 for a session at the client’s home if it is more than six kilometers away.
Chang regards 222 as a powerful number.
Although Chang acknowledges that some fortune-tellers either cheat or don’t know what they’re talking about, he believes his discipline to be almost an exact science. “I would say I am 95 percent correct – and most of the time if I am incorrect – it’s because my customers gave me inaccurate information,” he explains, smiling as usual.
Interpretation also matters. Just before the Khmer Rouge regime, some astrologists saw an uninhabited capital without anyone in the streets or in the houses, but nobody had measured the extent of the damage.
Nevertheless, Chang doesn’t think astrology should rule people’s lives: “We should only believe 30% in astrology and 60% in hard-work,” he said, adding that what he likes most in his job is being able to “help people find their happiness”.
Chang believes that although the years 2009 to 2011 are not as good as years go – that 2012 and 2013 should be much better because of the water element.
“However, people should be careful about the floods,” he cautions. But 2012 will not be the end of the world as the Mayas predicted, Chang says, but some islands and areas could disappear, submerged by water.
Whereas 2010 was good for those who were born in the Chinese astrological years of the horse, goat, dog, pig and rabbit – and bad for those born in the years of the monkey and tiger, things will change in 2011, Chang predicts, it will be a bad year for those born in the years of the rooster, rabbit and rat – but a very good year for those born in the year of the dog, goat, tiger and horse.
Chang is always open to help new people who seek his knowledge at house 163, street 146, Teuk Laok II, Toul Kork.