A scattering of fortune cookies, and the fortune slips they contain, are shown at the feet of this cookie jar labeled "Good Fortune Cookies." (Of glazed porcelain, it stands about 12½" tall.)
Most fortunes in such cookies are good, in fact, being meant to please and amuse. Examples include: "You will be of good comfort"; "Everywhere you choose to go, friendly faces will greet you"; and "A big fortune will descend upon you this year." Some dispense advice or merely optomism: "Be on the alert for new oppertunity" and "Don't be afriad to take that big step." Some slips offer lucky numbers. One company, however, offers "Misfortune Cookies" with humorously negative prognostications.
The fortune cookie appears not to have originated in China, but in California. One claim is that it was invented in 1914 by Makoto Hagiwara at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Fransicso, another that the inventor was David Tung, whos Hong Kong Noodle Company first made the cookies in Los Angeles as early as 1918. (see holidayinsights.com.)
One legend does ascribe a Chinese origin, claiming that in the fourteenth century, to stave off Mongolian invasion, Chinese soldiers disguised themselves as monks and communicated strategies by hiding messages in moon cakes.
Whatever the truth of their origin, fortune cookies are now mass produced and even exported to China with fortunes printed in English.