Chinese Culture – Numbers in China
Superstition is a big deal in China. There are many lucky numbers in Chinese to be aware of.
Upon coming to China it is useful to understand various things about Chinese Culture. It runs deep through the heart of China.
You will experience many positive and negative things about the culture all the time.
From the moment the crowds leave you in shock during rush hour, to taking in the gorgeous sites of the Summer Palace on a crisp, Autumnal day in pure peace and harmony.
It doesn’t get much more diverse than China.
Numbers have a very important significance for many Chinese people.
Superstition runs incredibly deep here as some of the stories below will confirm.
Before we get stuck into the lucky numbers in Chinese let’s give you a quick rundown on how to write the numbers from 1-20 in Chinese.
Lucky Numbers in Chinese: NINE – 九 Jiŭ
The number 9 in Chinese sounds very similar to 久, jiŭ which translates to “long lasting” or “eternity”.
In fact both characters have the same pinyin and the same tone, meaning they sound exactly the same.
Due to this, it’s an example of a number that is used at Chinese weddings and also birthdays! The number represents longevity so is perfectly apt for either of these celebrations.
Other examples of joy the number 9 brings in China are:
- To signify everlasting love, 99, 999, or 9999 roses are usually sent to present the eternal love.
- The number 9 is also traditionally associated with the Chinese emperor. His robes had 9 dragons on them and officials were organized in, yep, you guessed it, 9 ranks.
- The Forbidden City is known to have a total of 9,999 and a half rooms, obviously!
Find out all you need to know about Chinese lucky red envelopes here too:
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Lucky Numbers in Chinese: EIGHT – 八 bā
The pinnacle of lucky numbers in China! Number 8 in Chinese, bā sounds very similar to the word “to prosper” 發 fā.
People in China go to extraordinary lengths to get themselves a number plate, or a mobile phone number with as many 8’s in there as possible!
To give you an idea of exactly how high the number 8 is on the pedestal, here are some fun facts of how the number 8 is implemented in China.
- The Chinese phone number +86 28 8888 8888 was sold for over 2,000,000 Yuan. Sichuan Airlines were the airline in question back in 2003!
- The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony took place at the exact time of
- 8/8/2008 at 8:08.08
- Chinese menus price goods up with an 8 for psychological reasons, very similarly to how Europe and the Americas would use the number 9. So rather than selling something for 5USD, it’s sold for 4.99USD to make it sound cheaper to the buyer. The same applies in China but with an 8 used instead of a 9.
- Many International airlines who have a flight coming to, or going from China use the number 8 in the Flight Number. Some examples…
- Air Astana – Beijing to Almaty is Flight KC888.
- British Airways – Chengdu to London is Flight BA88.
- Etihad Airways – Abu Dhabi to Beijing (then to Nagoya) is Flight EY888.
Another example of a lucky number with 8 in it to further enhance it’s reputation…
- 48 – Any 3 digit numbers that ends with the numbers 4 and 8. This sounds similar to “wealthy for X number of lifetimes”. So for example, 748 (qī sì bā) sounds like qī shì fā (七世發). This means “wealthy for 7 lifetimes”. Likewise 848 would mean wealthy for 8 lifetimes!
Don’t forget to check out our blog on Chinese gift-giving etiquette:
Probably the most incredible relates to weddings and the Olympics.
The date 8/8/2008 was pencilled into many Chinese diaries not just because the start of the Olympics, but because a huge boom in Weddings surfaced for the big day. Families wanted to start married life by offering themselves as much luck as possible, and by tying the knot on this special date, they’ve given themselves all the luck they could’ve wished for.
Couples continued the traditions by having 8 bridesmaids, 8 course meals or 8.08pm first dances! You can read more about this incredible day in China via an article on the NBC website.
Lucky Numbers in Chinese: SIX – 六 Liù
Despite the fact the number 6 can have negative connotations in the western world due to the number 666 referring to the devil, in China it works differently.
Number 6 in Chinese sounds similar to 流 liú which means “to flow” and 溜 liū which means smooth or slick in Chinese.
When six is paired together numerous times to make 66, 666 or 6666 etc these are actually considered very lucky numbers.
In keeping with the theme of crazy number stories in China, here is one to rival the above stories for the number 8.
A Chinese motorcycle dealer in 增城 Zēngchéng of Guangdong Province in the south of China paid 272,000RMB (USD $34,000) for the motorcycle license plate AW6666!
There is really so much more to delve into. A quick Google search for further stories will give you an endless list of crazy lengths that can be reached, to gain the lucky number! We’ll leave that to you…
Chinese youngsters tend to use the number 666 (六六六) to express their admiration or positivity towards a situation.
DID YOU KNOW – There is a common Chinese Chengyu which goes, 六六大顺 (liù liù dà shùn). This means that things will go smoothly.
Another interesting anecdote that’s been commonly spoken of is that if a man wishes to wed his partner, he should confirm this with the gesture of giving a red packet of 6,666CNY or 66,666CNY. Be careful though, 666CNY might be too small an amount, especially given the story above!
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Lucky Numbers in Chinese – Combinations and their meaning
Now you know 6,8 and 9 are China’s lucky numbers.
Try to look out for them on number plates, phone numbers and in day to day life. Moving on from singular lucky numbers, there are also some combinations which is worth introducing you to. These aren’t necessarily lucky, but they are well worth knowing because you’ll see them pop up a lot! Let’s introduce you to two of them.
- 520 (五二零, wǔ èr líng) – This is one of the most common combinations that is widely used across WeChat. Why you ask? Take the phrase for “I Love You” in Chinese, this is 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) in Chinese. Note the sound for this almost resembles 520 in Chinese Pinyin. Many Chinese would type 520 in a message to a partner with the intention of expressing their love for that person, because typing 我爱你 is apparently just too much effort!
- 1314 (一三一四, yī sān yī sì) – This number combination actually links directly to the above. 1314 sounds pretty close to 一生一世 (yī shēng yī shì). The direct translation of this is “one life one world”. How does this link to the above? Combine them to make 5201314… I love you forever. Smart bunch aren’t they!
In the day and age of Social Media and young Chinese people attached to their phones 24/7 these trends are ever changing so keep an eye out for the latest number combinations!
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Chinese Culture – Be aware when giving gifts
So there you have it. The three luckiest numbers in Chinese culture.
Be very aware of these when giving gifts for example. The gesture, especially from a foreigner won’t be forgotten if you hand over a red packet with 666 CNY in for a friend’s birthday.
Next up we’ll focus on the other side of the coin, the numbers to avoid in Chinese. This is probably more important than the lucky numbers because you could end up offending certain locals. We’ll reveal how next time.
CHINESE NUMBERS – Want to know the numbers from 1-100 in Chinese? Wondered how to saw your telephone number in Chinese, or when your birthday is? Drop in and check out our Chinese Numbers blog which covers all of these and much more.
Oh, and one more video tutorial for you to sign off…
Summary of Lucky Numbers in Chinese – FAQ’s
No 4 is not a lucky number in Chinese. In fact 4 is avoided at all costs in Chinese because the number 4 sounds like the word for death in Chinese.
Yes it is. Despite the fact 666 in the western world doesn’t quite mean luck, in China it is a different story. The number 6 in Chinese sounds similar to 流 liú which means “to flow” and 溜 liū which means smooth or slick in Chinese.
Yes, it’s the luckiest number of all. Number 8 in Chinese, bā sounds very similar to the word “to prosper” 發 fā.
Yes it is. The number 9 in Chinese sounds very similar to 久, jiŭ which translates to “long lasting” or “eternity”.
If you say 250 (二百五 èr bǎi wǔ) to someone in Chinese you are effectively insulting them. You will find that nothing in Chinese is priced up at 250CNY and if you hear someone calling you (二百五 èr bǎi wǔ) then you are being insulted!
520 is Internet Slang and is supposed to resemble 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) in Chinese. Note the sound for this almost resembles 520 (五二零) in Chinese Pinyin. Many Chinese would type 520 in a message to a partner with the intention of expressing their love for that person
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