Lucky and unlucky numbers in China


Posted on Jun 5, 2022      174


Many countries have prejudices related to numbers. China is no exception. Locals still believe that there are numbers that can bring good luck, and the opposite of them, filled with negative energy.

Unlucky numbers

To begin with, we should talk about the numbers that the Chinese try not to use. Most of all, they have negative associations with the number four. It’s not just a matter of sound. The thing is that the Chinese character for “four” (sy) sounds similar to the word “death”. That is why many Chinese simply ignore the existence of this number. So, do not be surprised that many hotels or houses do not have rooms and floors under the number 4, 14, 24 and so on. It turns out that a 40-story house can in fact be only 35 floors! The same applies to mobile numbers, which are almost always missing fours. By the way, the number 13 is bad in China simply because 1 plus 3 adds up to 4.

4 in china

However, not everyone is afraid of the number 4. Some, on the contrary, try to benefit from the general “tetraphobia”. For example, they buy apartments or phone numbers, the description of which includes the number four, at a lower price. This is very profitable.

Another “unhappy number” is number 2. The attitude to this number among the locals is twofold. On the one hand, it is a lucky number. After all, almost everyone strives to find a couple and live with their significant other in harmony. But two is the number with which conflicts always start. Everything in the world from the first days of its creation can be divided in two: positive and negative, yin and yang, evil and good. So, in some ways, the two are a symbol of contradictions and conflicts.

Separately, we should highlight an interesting combination of numbers. 250 is a number conveyed by characters that read the same way as the word “idiot” (二百五). This funny coincidence cannot be explained even by the Chinese themselves. We cannot call 250 an unlucky number, but it is worth knowing its meaning in order not to offend a Chinese person.

250 in China

Good numbers in the Celestial Empire

The numbers they call “lucky” in China are also quite interesting. First, let’s start with the number 2, which we have already talked about. The character for this number is often used for the decoration of wedding halls. In addition, all things going in pairs are lucky. These can be various figurines, coins and so on. In the Middle Kingdom, there is even a corresponding proverb, saying that all the good things in our lives go in pairs. Two is a symbol of a happy life together.

The number 3 also has a positive connotation. That the character for “three” is similar in sound to the word “birth”. That means that it is associated with the beginning of a new life and something new.

The Chinese also have interesting associations with the number five. In nature, as it is believed in many Asian countries, there are five basic elements: fire, wood, metal, earth and air. The number is truly sacred. Even the famous Tiananmen Gate has five arches.

Six is considered a popular number in China. It is especially loved by businessmen. It is believed that it brings them the most luck. To attract it, along with a lot of money, the Chinese often carry in their pocket or purse six coins tied with a red ribbon or lace. The combination of a lucky number, metal and bringing money and success in the color red, if not attracts luck, then at least motivates its owner to earn money. In addition, many people associate the number 6 with happiness.

Similar attitude and the Chinese and the seven. This number symbolizes unity. Incidentally, the same meaning of the number seven has in the Western culture. Such a coincidence is not considered a coincidence. In fact, the number that means “unity” really unites so different cultures, at least.

The same positive aspects are usually associated with the eight. If in European culture the number eight means infinity, in China it is considered a symbol of prosperity and wealth. In some dialects, the character for “eight” sounds just like the word for “happiness”. No negativity, only positive associations.

8 in china.

The nine has always been a favorite of the Chinese nobility. This number is commonly associated with the emperors of China. The fact is that among all the officials who were close to the Emperor, there were nine ranks. In addition, there were also nine awards, with which the current emperors awarded those who especially distinguished themselves. However, the nine are associated with other no less majestic creatures. In Chinese mythology, as in many others, there was a belief about dragons. And these mythological monsters, as the Chinese believed, had just nine heads. Therefore, dragons, and with them the number nine, became associated with power. Even the same emperors often decorated their clothes with either nine dragons or one, but with nine heads. And in the Beijing Imperial Palace there were always 9999 rooms.

As for combinations of numbers, a combination of eight and two or three is especially popular. For example, the numbers 38 and 28 are especially loved by the superstitious Chinese, because they symbolize triple and double prosperity, respectively.

As you can see, there are many more numbers that locals associate with something positive than those that are negative.

Superstition and Reality

Not all Chinese believe in the sacred significance of numbers and their influence on our lives and everything in it. But just in case, it is necessary to avoid using those numbers that are considered “unlucky” in China. Especially if you are planning to build some serious relationship with the Chinese or do business with them. Among most Chinese, a brand or product model with a four in the name or description is unlikely to be popular. Similar difficulties can arise when buying phone numbers, signing contracts and even setting dates for some important event. For example, a Chinese business partner is unlikely to agree to schedule a store opening on the fourth of any month or to close any important deal on that day.

The same is true for wedding dates. If you plan to marry a Chinese woman, or marry a local man, it is better not to offer to fix the date of the wedding on the 4th, 14th or 24th of the month. And if please such a celebration, give nothing on which there is a hieroglyph that stands for the number four. Such gifts are given only to enemies.

The distinction between “lucky” and “unhappy” numbers was made long ago. And, although the Chinese are now taught to treat reality with great skepticism and get rid of superstitions, ordinary people still want to believe in the symbolism of numbers and are afraid of the fours, just in case. To such prejudices should be treated with understanding, because all cultures have their own characteristics. So don’t be afraid to learn new things and don’t rush to criticism.


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