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Trickster’s Journey: Tarot Reimagined with Chinese Mythology

Photo of the Trickster's Journey keepsake box and included guidebook laid atop face-up cards from the deck.The new Trickster’s Journey: A Tarot Deck and Guidebook by fine artist Jia Sung reimagines the tarot by exploring its themes through the lens of Eastern mysticism, folklore, and spirituality. Inspired by the canonic 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West, this evocative deck renames the Fool card to Trickster, a character based on the legendary Monkey King from the novel. This archetype of the sojourner takes on new meaning—and new agency—as a seeker of truth and self-discovery. This fresh take on the classic figures in the Major and Minor Arcana uses symbols from Buddhism and ancient Chinese history to enliven this age-old divination practice once more.

As Jia writes in the guidebook’s introduction, “The journeys represented in both Journey to the West and the structure of the tarot closely mirror each other: The respective protagonist figures of the Monkey and the Fool undergo a rich sequence of experiences, struggle, ego death, wanderings, and wonderings, which lead them to revelation and completion.”

We invited Jia to share her insights on the iconography of her seven favorite cards with you, our dear readers. This exclusive preview is your first look at the luxe art of the deck, paired with notes about the cards’ meanings and symbolism.

Photo of the Trickster card from the Trickster's Journey deck


The eponymous protagonist of this deck, Trickster points to the potential of the unknown. Monkey at the start of their journey represents the Buddhist concept of the mind-monkey—wayward and curious, they leave the Mountain of Fruits and Flowers in search of greater meaning. Traditionally known as the Fool, the renaming of this card references the fine line between fool and trickster, the trickster being an archetype that typifies both idiocy and wisdom; an ambiguous and liminal figure on a path to transcendence.

Photo of the Temperance card from the Trickster's Journey deck


The card of patience and balance is represented as Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion who perceives the sounds of the world, often depicted as androgynous or transcending gender. A counterpoint to the Trickster’s rage, Guanyin provides the means to control and temper Monkey’s impulsiveness, keeping their journey in motion.

Photo of the World card from the Trickster's Journey deck


This card indicates revelation, the completion of a cycle. In World, we see Monkey at journey’s end, celebrating their transcendence from the Wheel of Life. The three creatures from the hub of the Wheel card, now likewise freed from the cycle of reincarnation, flank Monkey on every side. Mirroring the Hanged One, Monkey has one leg crossed over the other—but where the Hanged One is immersed in introspection, the dancer of the World looks outward.

Photo of the Queen pf Cups card from the Trickster's Journey deck


This card asks you to trust your intuition. The Queen represents the highest level of emotional connection, and its ability to uplift the people around you. Dressed in Daoist regalia and a robe bordered with waves, the Queen dances while bearing her chalice. The suit of Cups, tied to the element of Water and the realm of emotions and relationships, is ruled here by the ancient constellation of the Black Tortoise, a mythological beast depicted as a tortoise entwined with a snake.

Photo of the Three of Coins card from the Trickster's Journey deck


Representing the value of collaborative effort, the three coins of this card bear the inscription 男耕女織 — “men plow, women weave.” This traditional maxim describing a gendered ideal of domestic harmony is amusingly contradicted by the presence of two intertwined New Mexico whiptail lizards, an all-female species that reproduces asexually. The suit of Coins, tied to the element of Earth and the realm of material concerns, is ruled by the Blue Dragon, a revered symbol in Chinese culture associated with imperial power and agriculture.

Photo of the Knight of Wands card from the Trickster's Journey deck


As with all the knights of the tarot, the Knight of Wands symbolizes the will to actually pursue the ideas of the Page, urging you to take on the world if need be. Bold and playful, this Knight in scarlet plays a guqin atop their sparrowhawk mount, sporting an elaborate cloud collar at their throat. The suit of Wands, tied to the element of Fire and associated with creativity and action, is ruled by the Red Bird, also known as the auspicious phoenix.

Photo of the Six of Swords card from the Trickster's Journey deck


This card indicates the need to reconcile yourself with past decisions and regrets in order to move forward. The black cat depicted here picks her way delicately through a forest of swords, trusting herself to navigate through potential harm. The suit of Swords, tied to the element of Air and matters of thought and intellect, is ruled by the White Tiger, a traditional symbol of power associated with military might.

Photo of author Jia Sung sitting at a table with prints of art from the Trickster's Journey deck

Jia Sung

About the Author

Jia Sung is a Singaporean Chinese artist, currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work spans paintings, zines & artist books, writing, translation, and tapestries, and draws on motifs from Chinese mythology, Buddhist iconography, and the familiar visual language of folklore to examine and subvert the archive through a queer feminist lens.

Learn more about this author