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Numbers in Chinese culture: Wikis


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In Chinese culture, certain numbers are believed by some to be auspicious (吉利) or inauspicious (不利) based on the Chinese word that the number name sounds similar to. However some Chinese people regard these beliefs to be superstitions. Since the pronunciation and the vocabulary may be different in different Chinese dialects, the rules are generally not applicable for all cases.

Because of the supposed auspiciousness of certain numbers, some people will often choose, attempt to obtain, or pay large sums for numbers that are considered to be lucky for their phone numbers, street addresses, residence floor (in a multi-story building), driver's license number, vehicle license plate number, bank account number, etc.

Lucky numbers are based on Chinese words that sound similar to other Chinese words. The numbers 6, 8, and 9 are believed to have auspicious meanings because their names sound similar to words that have positive meanings.


Luckier numbers



The number 2 (二 or 两, Pinyin: èr or liăng) is a good number in Chinese culture. There is a Chinese saying "good things come in pairs". It is common to use double symbols in product brandnames, e.g. double happiness, double coin, double elephants etc. In Cantonese, two (jyutping: yi6) is a homophone of the character for "easy" (易).


The number 3 (三, Pinyin: sān, jyutping: saam1) sounds similar to the character for "birth" (生, Pinyin: shēng, jyutping: saang1), and is thus considered a lucky number.


The number 5 (五, Pinyin: wŭ) is associated with the five elements (water, wood, fire, earth and metal) in Chinese philosophy, and in turn was historically associated with the Emperor of China. For example, the Tiananmen gate, being the main thoroughfare to the Forbidden City, has five arches. It is also referred to as the pronoun "I"[citation needed], as the pronunciations of "I" (我, Pinyin: wŏ) and 5 are similar in Mandarin.


The number 6 (六, Pinyin: liù) in Mandarin is pronounced the same as "lee-oh" (澑, Pinyin: liù) and similar to "fluid" (流, Pinyin: liú) and is therefore considered good for business. The number 6 also represents happiness. In Cantonese, this number is a homophone for blessings (祿 Lok)


The number 7 (七, Pinyin: qī) symbolizes "togetherness". It is a lucky number for relationships. It is also recognized as the luckiest number in the West, and is one of the rare numbers that is great in both Chinese and many Western cultures. It is a lucky number in Chinese culture, because it sounds alike to the Chinese character 起 (Pinyin: qi3) meaning arise.


The word for "eight" (八 Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means "prosper" or "wealth" ( - short for "发财", Pinyin: fā). In regional dialects the words for "eight" and "fortune" are also similar, e.g. Cantonese "baat3" and "faat3".

There is also a visual resemblance between two digits, "88", and 囍, the "shuāng xĭ" ('double joy'), a popular decorative design composed of two stylized characters 喜 ("xĭ" meaning 'joy' or 'happiness').

  • A telephone number with all digits being eights was sold for USD$270,723 in Chengdu, China.
  • The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing began on 8/8/08 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm (local time).[1]
  • The Horseshoe Casino, in Hammond, Indiana, USA, also chose 08/08/08 as the opening date for its new facility.
  • WMBF-TV, the NBC affiliate that serves the Florence-Myrtle Beach market in South Carolina, also went on the air on 08/08/08; coincidentally, as an NBC affiliate, the launch was timed with the network's coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
  • A man in Hangzhou offered to sell his license plate reading A88888 for RMB 1.12 million (roughly USD164,000).[1]
  • The Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia has 88 Floors.
  • Dragon Fish Industry in Singapore, a breeder of rare Asian Arowanas (which are "lucky fish" themselves, and, being a rare species, are required to be microchipped), makes sure to use numbers with plenty of eights in their microchip tag numbers, and appears to reserve particular numbers especially rich in eights and sixes (e.g. 702088880006688) for particularly valuable specimens.[2][3]
  • The value of eight could also be linked with Buddhism and the meaning of Lotus flower (eight petals).
  • As part of grand opening promotions, a Commerce Bank branch in New York's Chinatown raffled off safety deposit box #888.
  • An "auspicious" numbering system was adopted by the developers of 39 Conduit Road Hong Kong, where the top floor was "88" - Chinese for double fortune. It is already common in Hong Kong for ~4th floors not to exist; there is no requirement by the Buildings Department for numbering other than that it being "made in a logical order."[4] A total of 42 intermediate floor numbers are omitted from 39 Conduit Road: those missing include 14, 24, 34, 64, all floors between 40 and 59; the floor number which follows 68 is 88.[4]


The number 9 (九, Pinyin: jiŭ, jyutping: gau2), being the greatest of single-digit numbers, was historically associated with the Emperor of China; the Emperor's robes often had nine dragons, and Chinese mythology held that the dragon has nine children.

Moreover, the number 9 is a homophone of the word for "longlasting" (久), and as such is often used in weddings.

Unlucky numbers


Number 4 (四; accounting 肆; pinyin ) is considered an unlucky number in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cultures because it is nearly homophonous to the word "death" (死 pinyin ). Due to that, many numbered product lines skip the "4": e.g. Nokia cell phones (there is no series beginning with a 4), Palm[citation needed] PDAs, Canon PowerShot G's series (after G3 goes G5), etc. In East Asia, some buildings do not have a 4th floor. (Compare with the American practice of some buildings not having a 13th floor because 13 is considered unlucky.) In Hong Kong, some high-rise residential buildings miss ALL floor numbers with "4", e.g. 4, 14, 24, 34 and all 40-49 floors. As a result, a building whose highest floor is number 50 may actually have only 36 physical floors.

In Singapore during the early 2000s, Alfa Romeo introduced a new model, the 144. Due to poor sales, the company changed the model number of the product.[citation needed]

Number 14 is considered to be one of the unluckiest numbers. Although 14 is usually said in Mandarin as 十四 "shí sì," which sounds like 十死 "ten die", it can also be said as 一四 "yī sì" or 么四 "yāo sì", literally "one four". Thus, 14 can also be said as "yāo sì," literally "one four," but it also sounds like "want to die" (要死 pinyin yào sǐ). In Cantonese, 14 sounds like "sap6 sei3", which sounds like "sat6 sei2" meaning "certainly die" (實死). Not all Chinese people consider it to be an unlucky number as the pronunciation differs among the various dialects. In Chiu Chow, 4 is pronounced as "see" or "yes". It is seen to be a lucky number because Chinese people like things in pairs (four would equal two pairs). However, the superstitions regarding numbers from Chinese people have been adopted by the other Cantonese people.

Coincidentally, in the Rich Text Format specification, language code 4 is for the Chinese language.


Although five (五, pinyin: wǔ, jyutping: ng5) can represent "me" (吾, pinyin: wú) in Mandarin, it is usually associated with "not" (Mandarin 无/無, pinyin , and Cantonese 唔 m4). If used for the negative connotation it can become good by using it with a negative. 54 being "not die" or "no death". If used for the positive it can be used as a possessive. 528 is a way of saying "no easy fortune for me". 53 ("ng5 saam1" in Cantonese) sounds like "m4 sang1 (唔生)" - "not live".


Six in Cantonese which has a similar pronunciation to that of "lok6" (落, meaning "to drop, fall, or decline") may form unlucky combinations.


Seven is considered spiritist or ghostly. The seventh month of the Chinese calendar is also called the "Ghost Month". See Ghost Festival for more detail. During this month, the gates of hell are said to be open so ghosts and spirits are permitted to visit the living realm. However, Chinese lunar calendar also has July 7 as Chinese Valentine's Day (qi xi), so the number 7 is not generally associated with unluck. In most of the regions in China number 7 remains neutral or associate with luck.


  • 167, 169, 1679: In Hong Kong, seven (七) and nine (九) both have similar pronunciations to 𨳍 and 𨳊, respectively, two of "the five most insulting words" in Cantonese - the male genital. Six in Cantonese also has a similar pronunciation to an impolite word which is used to count the number of cylindrical objects. Therefore, 167, 169, 1679 and other creative combinations (such as the infamous taboo "on-9-9") are dirty jokes in Hong Kong culture.
  • 250: if it is read in a certain way, it means imbecile in Mandarin. 二百五 (èr bǎi wǔ) reading means imbecile, while alternative ways such as 兩百五 (lǐang bǎi wǔ) or 二百五十 (èr bǎi wǔ shí) means 250. The difference lies with the rule that 兩 should be used in the place of 二 to mean 2 when directly before a measure word (百, in this case.)
  • 5354: "唔生唔死" (m4 saang1 m4 sei2 in Cantonese) sounds like "not alive, not dead". This often refers to something that is half dead or on the verge of death.
  • 678: "六七八" (jyutping: luk6 cat1 baat3) rhymes with the phrase "一路發" (jyutping: jaat1 lou6 faat3) in Cantonese, which means "fortune all the way." Alternatively, 168 "一六八" is sometimes used for the same term in Mandarin.
  • 7456: In Mandarin, 7456 (qī sì wǔ liù) sounds marginally like "氣死我了" (qì-sǐ wǒ -le, "to make me angry," "to piss me off"), and is sometimes used in internet slang.[5]
  • 9413: "九死一生" (gau2 sei2 yat1 saang1 in Cantonese) - nine die to one live, meaning 90% chance of being dead and only 10% chance of being alive.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Patriot games: China makes its point with greatest show" by Richard Williams, The Guardian, published August 9, 2008
  2. ^ "DFI captive bred EMERALD BLUE Cross backs and Bukit Merah Blue Cross backs with Special Golden Tag Numbers for good luck"
  3. ^ "The One & Only - Arowana King & Platinum Xback"
  4. ^ a b Moy, Patsy; Yiu, Derek (22 October 2009). "Raising the roof over developer's tall story". The Standard. 
  5. ^ Gao Liwei (2008). "Language change in progress: evidence from computer-mediated communication". Proceedings of the North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics 20: 361–377. 

External links


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