Numbers in Chinese culture

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In Chinese tradition, 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. The numbers 0, 6, 8, and 9 are believed to have auspicious meanings because their names sound similar to words that have positive meanings.

Lucky numbers[edit]

Zero[edit]

The Number 0 (零 or 檸, Pinyin:líng or níng) is a whole number and it is also an even number for the money ends with 0.

Two[edit]

The number 2 (二 or 两, Pinyin:èr or liăng) is most often considered a good number in Chinese culture. There is a Chinese saying: "good things come in pairs". It is common to repeat characters in product brand names, such as double happiness, which even has its own character 囍, a combination of two 喜. In Cantonese, two (jyutping: ji6 or loeng5) is homophone of the characters for "easy" (易) and "bright" (亮). In Northern China, the number, when used as an adjective, can also mean "stupid".[1]

Three[edit]

The number 3 (三, Pinyin: sān, jyutping: saam1) sounds similar to the character for "birth" (生, Pinyin: shēng, jyutping: saang1), and is considered a lucky number.[citation needed] The number 3 is significant since there are three important stages in a man’s life (birth, marriage and death).

Five[edit]

The number 5 (五, Pinyin: wŭ) is associated with the five elements (Water, Fire, Earth, Wood, 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 吾, Pinyin: wú) and 5 are similar in Mandarin.

Six[edit]

The number 6 also represents wealth in Cantonese, this number is a homophone for (祿 Lok). 6 (六, Pinyin: liù) in Mandarin is pronounced the same as "liu" (溜, Pinyin: liù) and similar to "flow" (流, Pinyin: liú) and is therefore considered good for business.

Seven[edit]

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 word 起 (Pinyin: qǐ) meaning arise, and also 气 (Pinyin: qì) meaning life essence.

Forty-nine[edit]

Possibly by extension, the number 49, the square of seven, is used in many Chinese folk, Taoist and Buddhist rituals. For example, it is believed[by whom?] that a recently deceased spirit will linger in the living world for 49 days. Therefore a second requiem ritual is often performed at the end of 49 days. Similarly, many rituals require the performer to undergo a 49-day cleansing, fasting, etc.

When named in ritualistic context, the number 49, as the square of seven, is almost always explicitly invoked as "7-7-49" (七七四十九) rather than simply "49".

Eight[edit]

The word for "eight" (八 Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means "prosper" or "wealth" ( – short for "發財", 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").

The number 8 is viewed as such an auspicious number that even being assigned a number with several eights is considered very lucky.

Nine[edit]

The number 9 (九, Pinyin: jiŭ, jyutping: gau2), was historically associated with the Emperor of China, and the number was frequently used in matters relating to the Emperor, before the establishment of the imperial examinations officials were organized in the nine-rank system, the nine bestowments were rewards the Emperor made for officials of extraordinary capacity and loyalty, while the nine familial exterminations was one of the harshest punishments the Emperor sentenced; the Emperor's robes often had nine dragons, and Chinese mythology held that the dragon has nine children. It also symbolizes harmony.

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

Unlucky numbers[edit]

Four[edit]

The number 4 is omitted in some Chinese buildings.

Number 4 (四; accounting 肆; pinyin ) is considered an unlucky number in Chinese 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),[7] 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 Western practice of some buildings not having a 13th floor because 13 is considered unlucky.) In Hong Kong, some high-rise residential buildings omit all floor numbers with "4", e.g., 4, 14, 24, 34 and all 40–49 floors, in addition to not having a 13th floor.[6] As a result, a building whose highest floor is number 50 may actually have only 35 physical floors. Singaporean public transport operator SBS Transit has omitted the number plates for some of its buses whose numbers end with '4' due to this, so if a bus is registered as SBS***3*, SBS***4* will be omitted and the next bus to be registered will be SBS***5*. Note that this only applies to certain buses and not others and that the final asterisk is a checksum letter and not a number. Another Singaporean public transport operator SMRT has omitted the '4' as the first digit of the serial number of the train cars as well as the SMRT Buses NightRider services.

Five[edit]

Five (五, pinyin: wǔ, jyutping: ng5) is associated with "not" (Mandarin 無, pinyin , and Cantonese 唔 m4). If used for the negative connotation it can become good by using it with a negative. Thus, 54 means "no death". 53 ("ng5 saam1" in Cantonese) sounds like "m4 sang1 (唔生)" – "not live".

Six[edit]

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

Combinations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://offbeatchina.com/tuesday-feb-22nd-2222-the-2-day-for-the-retarded-in-china
  2. ^ "China's 'lucky' phone number". BBC News. 2003-08-13. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Patriot games: China makes its point with greatest show" by Richard Williams, The Guardian, published August 9, 2008
  4. ^ "DFI captive bred EMERALD BLUE Cross backs and Bukit Merah Blue Cross backs with Special Golden Tag Numbers for good luck"
  5. ^ "The One & Only – Arowana King & Platinum Xback"
  6. ^ a b c Moy, Patsy; Yiu, Derek (22 October 2009). "Raising the roof over developer's tall story". The Standard. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ Gao Liwei (2008). "Language change in progress: evidence from computer-mediated communication". Proceedings of the North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics 20: 361–377. 
  9. ^ 3361

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