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 not be different Chinese dialects, the rules are generally 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
, and 9
are believed to have auspicious meanings because their names sound similar to words that have positive meanings.
The number 1 can represent unity.
The number 2
(二, pronounced err
) 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. Cantonese speaking people
like the number two because it sounds the same as their word for "easy" (易).
The number 3
in Cantonese) sounds like the word "生 (sanng
)", meaning "life", and is thus considered a lucky number.
Although the number 4
is considered unlucky by most Chinese (see Unlucky section for details), it is considered lucky in some local Chinese dialects where it is a homophone with the word "事(job, business, or task)". When the number 4 is encountered during a celebration, people would often remark "四四如意", which would also refer to "事事如意" (Everything done as wished).
4 also sounds like the word "思 (thinking)". 4 in solfège sounds like "fa (发)", meaning "get fortune"; 14 in solfège sounds like "dou fa (都发)", meaning "everyone gets fortunes".
The number 5
is associated with the Five elements (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.
The number 6
, pronounced "liu" in Mandarin, sounds like the word for "flowing", "smooth" or "slippery" which can mean "everything goes smoothly".
The number 666 can be seen prominently in many shop windows across the country, and people there often pay extra to get a mobile phone number including this string of digits. Paradoxically, that number is considered to be demonic in Western culture, as it is the Number of the Beast.
License plate number AW6666 was bought for RMB 272,000 (US$34,000) in an auction by an anonymous bidder on behalf of a motorcycle dealership in Zengcheng, Guangzhou.
The number 7
symbolizes "togetherness". This is shown in the Chinese mythology of Cowherd and Weaver Girl
. The seventh day of the seventh month is The Night of Sevens
. However, the mythology of Cowherd and Weaver Girl
is a tragedy, since they could only meet up with each other once every 1000 years, therefore 7 is often known as a sad, tragic, and unlucky number in the northern Chinese tradition. Also, the 7th month of the year is known as the Ghost Month
, and therefore 7 is often linked with fate, destiny, and supernatural occurrences.
The word for "eight"
(八，捌) in Mandarin (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, eg Cantonese
"baat" and "faat".
There is also a resemblance between two digits, "88", and the shuang xi ('double joy'), a popular decorative design composed of two stylized characters 喜 (xi, 'joy', 'happiness').
Telephone number 8888-8888 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)
A man in Hangzhou offered to sell his license plate reading A88888 for RMB 1.12 million.
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.
The number 9
, 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 (jiu) sounds like the word for "longlasting" (久 pinyin jiǔ), and as such is often used in weddings.
While 13 in Western culture is a bad number, in Chinese, 13 is a good number because in Cantonese, 13 is close to "實生" (will/should/will certainly live), so when faced with uncertainties, this is a comforting number. Of course, that makes 14 bad, because 14 is close to "實死" (will/should/will certainly die/fail).
1314 - Forever (一生一世), as the pronunciation of "1314" is close to "一生一世" (in Mandarin). At one stage, 520 1314 was a very romantic number since "520" is close to 我愛您 (I love you in Mandarin), so 520 1314, (meaning I love you for eternity) was a very romantic 7-digit phone number.
138 or 148 - Prosperous for life; variations include 338 and 448 (Prosperous for every generation).
168 - Prosperous all the way, or to be prosperous together - many charged telephone service numbers in China begin with this number. Many businesses also prefer to have this number as part of their names. It is considered one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese culture.
518 - I will prosper (literally "prosperous without worries"); other variations include: 5189 (I will prosper for a long time), 516289 (I will get on a long, smooth prosperous road) and 5918 (I will soon prosper).
54 - in Cantonese: 'ng sei' sounds like 'm sei' - not die; in Mandarin, sounds like "I die"
524 - Cantonese, "Not easy to die"
肆; pinyin sì
) is considered an unlucky number
cultures because it sounds like the word "death" (死 pinyin sǐ
). Due to that, many numbered product lines skip the "4": e.g. Nokia cell phones
(there is no series beginning with a 4), Palm 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 with 50th as the highest floor may actually have 36.
Number 14 is considered to be one of the unluckiest numbers in Chinese culture. Although 14 is usually said as "shi si," which sounds like "ten die", it can also be said as "yi si" or "yao si", literally "one four". Thus, 14 can also be said as "yao si," literally "one four," but it also means "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).
Ironically, in the Rich Text Format specification, language code 4 is for the Chinese language.
Although it can represent "me" (我,pinyin wǒ
), it is usually associated with "not" (Mandarin 无/無,pinyin wú
, 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 "luk6" (落) - to drop, fall or decline may form unlucky combinations.
Seven is considered spiritual 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. It is not commonly associated with luck.
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 两百五 (lǐang bǎi wǔ) or 二百五十 (èr bǎi wǔ shí) means 250. The difference lies with the rule that 两 should be used in the place of 二 to mean 2 when directly before a measure word (百, in this case.)
9413 - "九死一生" ("Gau Sei Yat Saang" in Cantonese), meaning 90% chance of being dead and only 10% chance of being alive.
In Hong Kong, seven and nine both have similar pronunciations to 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 famous "on-99") are dirty jokes in Hong Kong culture.
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.