As in many cultures, there are certain numbers that are luckier than others in China. Where in the West, 7 might be considered an extremely lucky number, while 13 is bad luck, China has its own version of auspicious digits. These beliefs about the luckiness of numbers inform choices of car registration numbers, phone numbers and sometimes even birth years, as couples will plan pregnancies so that a child may be born in a numerically auspicious year.
For Westerners, religion often informs the superstition of numbers, but for the Chinese, it is always the way the number’s pronunciation compares with other words. The most famous example of this is the unlucky number 4, whose pronunciation (si) sounds unfortunately similar to the word for death.
Other numbers, though, have very good meanings in Chinese culture, especially even numerals. The number eight is considered by Chinese to be the most auspicious number because the word sounds similar to “fa” which means ‘prosperous’. The numeral “8” also looks similar to the word ‘xi’, which is known as “double happiness” because of the mirrored radicals in the character. It is also a widely known fact that the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics were started at precisely 8:08:08 p.m. on August (the eighth month) 8th, to ensure that the event went off without a hitch.
Six and nine are also lucky numbers in Chinese culture. The word for ‘six’ sounds similar to the words for ‘sleek’ and ‘fluid’, so it is considered a good number for smooth business dealings. Likewise, 9 has always been associated with the Chinese Emperor, whose robes displayed the image of nine dragons, which bore nine children. As well, the word ‘nine’ sounds the same as ‘longlasting’, so it is a good number for weddings.
Other combinations of numbers take on larger meanings when put together. Sometimes these numeric phrases are used for phone numbers or in email and text messages. Others are simply displayed to bring good fortune or happiness. Some examples include:
5: ‘Me’ because the words for ‘five’ and ‘I’ have the same sound.
6: Smooth and easy
518: I will prosper.
5918: I will soon prosper.
5189: I will prosper for a long time.
516289: I will take a long, smooth and prosperous path.
88 – Happiness to you! (Often used as a parting in online or text conversations)