What numbers should you use and avoid in China: Lucky numbers and numbers that bring misfortune in Chinese
Communication through the use of symbols is an essential part of Chinese society. For example, the Chinese use numbers as symbols to convey specific meanings. Since this is common in China, we should try our best to understand which numbers the Chinese see as lucky numbers or numbers that bring misfortune.
When learning Chinese, it is helpful to know something about Chinese culture and habits. If you do, it will be easier to avoid misunderstandings when communicating with Chinese.
Learning the Chinese culture and how symbols such as numbers are used in practice will make it easier to use Chinese words and expressions correctly.
èr 二 2 - lucky
In China, èr 二 2 is a lucky number because it represents "double" or a "pair". Chinese people view "double" as something positive that brings happiness, as it stands for "balance and harmony".
Many decorations for celebrations come in pairs, and gifts are also given in even numbers. For Chinese New Year, banners are placed symmetrically on both sides of the door.
For traditional Chinese weddings, decorations often include the word xǐ 囍, which is a combination of doubling the word xǐ 喜, meaning "happiness". Thus, the character xǐ 囍 is known as shuāng xǐ 双喜 or "double happiness".
Companies also repeat Chinese words (doubling) in names and advertising slogans, hoping this will positively impact the outcome.
sān 三 3 - lucky
Sān 三 3 sounds like shēng 生, which means "life" or "to give birth" in Chinese.
Chinese culture emphasizes family and strong, healthy children, so shēng 生 has a positive meaning.
In China, sān 三 3 is also a symbol for the three essential stages of human life: birth, marriage, and death. Therefore Chinese people view sān 三 3 as an auspicious number.
sì 四 4 - unlucky
Sì 四 4 is a number you should avoid using in China. The Chinese word sì 四 4 sounds like the word sǐ 死, "death", and is therefore seen as a number that brings misfortune.
While visiting China, You may have noticed that there is no fourth floor in some hospitals.
And in some elevators in Chinese hotels, they skip the fourth floor and go from sān 三 3 directly to wǔ 五 5.
liù 六 6 - lucky
The number liù 六 6 in Chinese sounds like liú 流, which means "to float" and liù 溜, which means "fast" in Chinese. That something "floats" is seen in China as something that goes forward and brings wealth.
When six is paired together several times to make 66, 666 or 6666, these are considered lucky numbers.
The number 666 (liù liù liù 六六六) is used to express admiration or positivity towards a situation.
There is also a popular Chinese proverb that says, liù liù dà shùn 六 六大 顺, which means "everything goes smoothly".
bā 八 8 - lucky
Bā 八 8 in Chinese, has a similar pronunciation as to the word "to flourish" fā 發.
In China, the number 8 is a lucky number. And when you add 8 to other numbers, the new number that contains the number eight is also considered a lucky number.
Wealthy Chinese pay money to get a license plate on their cars or a cell phone number with as many 8s as possible. In 2003, the telephone number "+86 28 8888 8888" was sold to Sichuan Airlines for 2.33 million CNY (approximately USD 280,000).
In 2008, the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics took place at the exact time 8/8/2008 at 8:08.08 pm.
Many international airlines that have planes arriving in or departing from China use number 8 in the flight number. For example, the Air Canada route from Shanghai to Toronto is Flight AC88, the British Airways route from Chengdu to London is Flight BA88, and the Air Astana route from Beijing to Almaty is Flight KC888.
jiŭ 九 9 - lucky
The number jiŭ 九 9 in Chinese sounds like the word jiŭ 久, meaning "long-lasting" or "eternity". Both characters have the same pronunciation (tone).
The number is used at Chinese weddings and birthdays and represents longevity—many Chinese send 99 roses to express eternal love.
The number 9 has been a popular number for Chinese emperors. Many emperors wore coats with 9 dragons, officials were organized into a 9-rank system, the empire was divided into 9 continents etc.
The Forbidden City is also known for having a total of 9,999 and a half rooms.
As the highest single-digit number, 9 represents completeness in traditional Chinese culture.
Combining lucky numbers in Chinese
Some combinations of lucky numbers are worth learning as they are often seen in China.
Chinese people use wǔ èr líng 五二零 520 to express wǒ ài nǐ 我 爱 你, which means "I love you" in Chinese. This number is often used when chatting online, and by writing 520 in a message to a partner, you express love for that person.
The number combination yī sān yī sì 一三一四 1314 sounds the same as yī shēng yī shì 一生一世, which can be translated directly to the «whole life».
This number is used in conjunction with wǔ èr líng 五二零 520. You will then get wǔ èr líng yī sān yī sì 五 二零一三一四 5201314, which means "I love you forever".
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