Exploring the Prophecy of Xu Fu

Statue of Chinese alchemist and explorer Xu Fu in Wakayama, Japan.

The prophecy of Xu Fu is one of the most remarkable stories in Chinese history. (Image: Beibaoke1 via Dreamstime)

The prophecy of Xu Fu is one of the most remarkable stories in Chinese history. It tells the tale of a 10-year-old boy who predicted the rise of Liu Bang, the Han Dynasty’s ancestor, and the Qin Dynasty’s downfall.

Xu Fu was one of the greatest physiognomists to be recorded in the annals of Chinese history, and his legacy lives on to this day. His incredible prophecy was fulfilled; many today still study and respect his teachings. This is the story of Xu Fu and his prophecy on the downfall of the Qin Dynasty.

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The rise of Liu Bang

In history, there were many predictions that no one believed at the time until they came true. This was the case with the downfall of the Qin Dynasty, which no one expected to collapse after two generations. 

One day, Qin Shi Huang toured the world; it was awe-inspiring. A middle-aged man was among the crowd watching the entourage from the side of the road. The man said: “I also want to be like him.” Everyone made fun of him for his foolishness. Ten years later, this man’s dream came true. So who is this middle-aged man? He is Liu Bang, the ancestor of the Han Dynasty.

Surprisingly, a 10-year-old already predicted Liu Bang's rise.
Surprisingly, a 10-year-old already predicted Liu Bang’s rise. (Image: via Public Domain)

The prophecy of Xu Fu

Surprisingly, a 10-year-old boy already predicted Liu Bang’s rise. This boy would later become a physiognomist to be recorded in the annals of Chinese history. His name was Xu Fu.

In the year when Qin Shi Huang ruled the world, Xu Fu was born into the family of the official Xu Wang in Wencheng County. Xu Fu was exceptional. He was born with a piece of beautiful jade in his hand and the eight trigrams on the jade. He started talking just 100 days after birth. When Qin Shi Huang heard about this, he felt it was an auspicious omen, so he gave Xu Wang a hundred yi of gold to bring up his son.

When Xu Fu grew up, he was guided by famous teachers and became a well-known fortune teller at a young age. Qin Shi Huang heard about him again, so he summoned Xu Fu to the palace for a chat. But unexpectedly, the boy refused to meet Qin Shi Huang.

This angered his father, Xu Wang, who reprimanded his son for being ungrateful and not repaying the emperor for his kindness. The boy sighed and told his father that the “Qin Dynasty is ending, and soon, the world would be in chaos.” He also said: “If I meet the Emperor, how will I tell him the truth?” Xu Wang was shocked and quickly told Xu Fu not to speak nonsense, forbidding him from predicting people’s lives.

The fulfillment of the prophecy

Several years passed in a blink of an eye. As predicted by Xu Fu, the world was in chaos. On that day, Liu Bang attacked Xianyang, passed through Wencheng, and asked to see Xu Fu at the city gate. Xu Fu looked at Liu Bang from the tower of the city gate and said to Xu Wang: “Father, below is the real emperor; open the city gate and surrender.”

Xu Wang listened to his son’s words and obediently opened the city gate. Later, when Liu Bang became powerful, he did not forget Xu Fu and honored him with an official title. Besides this, Xu Fu was also recognized by Emperor Wen of the Han Dynasty, so what is the story behind this?

Carved jade ornament.
Xu Fu was exceptional. He was born with a piece of beautiful jade in his hand and the eight trigrams on the jade. (Image: HongChan001 via Dreamstime)

The story behind the prophecy

Liu Bang had a general named Wei Wangbao. Wei Wangbao had a concubine named Bo Ji. One day, when Xu Fu saw Bo Ji, he told her she would give birth to a “dragon son” (meaning the son would become an emperor). When Wei Wangbao heard about this, he was pleased, thinking his son would become the future emperor. So he became ambitious and planned to rebel. However, his plan failed, and he was killed.

It turned out that Bo Ji was sent to the harem as a palace maid. Later, she was favored by Liu Bang and gave birth to Liu Heng, who later became Emperor Wen of the Han Dynasty.

Liu Bang had seven sons and a fierce wife, Empress Lu. According to protocol, Liu Heng, who had no status, would not have become the emperor. However, he survived the power struggle between Empress Lu and the court officials, princes, and ministers and miraculously ascended the imperial throne.

As such, Xu Fu’s prediction that Bo Ji’s son would become an emperor came true.

The legacy of Xu Fu

At the age of 50, Xu Fu resigned from his official position. He was neither interested in fame nor wealth and devoted himself to the study of physiognomy. He wrote many books on the subject and passed his knowledge to his students.

Xu Fu was a remarkable man who made an incredible prophecy that came true. His legacy continues today, as many still study and respect his teachings.

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