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Numerical Superstitions: A trend among young Chinese people to celebrate “Internet Festivals”

Hi everyone, Max here. Ever wondered why so many bachelors in China were freaking out on 11.11?  Did you know it’s a good idea to declare to the person you love on 5.20? Today we will explore the implications of those dates for young Chinese people.

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Traditionally, Chinese people believe strongly in numerical superstitions. People always tend to make connections between the pronunciations of numbers and those of the words that sound similar or homophonic. 6 and 8 are two of the most common examples one can find in everyday Chinese life.  8 in Chinese is pronounced “ba”, which sounds pretty close to the pronunciation of the word rich, “fa”. Thus, 8 always means wealthy to Chinese people. 6 means good luck for Chinese people; however, the origin of its meaning is sort of different from that of 8’s meaning.  It comes from a Chinese phrase, which, if translated into English, means two 6s make good luck.  On the other hand, 4 is a typical bad luck superstition of Chinese people. 4 is pronounced as “si” in Chinese, which sounds almost the same to the pronunciation of the word death in Chinese.

Now that we have known the basic rules of how Chinese people attach meanings to numbers, we can start to explore the non-traditional “Internet Festivals” in China. One thing you need to know is that in China the date is expressed in the order of Year/Month/ Day. The most popular “Internet Festival” should be 11.11: 1 looks like a stick, and a stick in Chinese also means a person with no boyfriend or girlfriend. Now you can see that as four 1s get together, it must be an incredibly shameful day for those with neither lovers nor dates; not to mention 2011.11.11. Another popular festival now is May 20. It is the day of  “I love you”, a new Valentine’s day. 5 (wu) sounds like the word I (wo) in Chinese, 2 (er) sounds like love (ai), and 0 (ling) sounds remotely like you (ni). Now you know that if you love someone and have no courage to say it to him/her, go for it on 5.20.  What’s even crazier is that people broke the record of marriages on a single day on both 2012.12.12 and 2013.01.04. Why? Because the pronunciation of 1 (yao) is similar to that of the word want (yao), thus 2012.12.12 becomes “want to love, want to love, want to love.” Also, 1, 3 (yi san) sounds like for a life (yi sheng), and 1, 4 (yi si) sounds like forever (yi shi).

Nowadays, traditional numerical superstitions are getting further away from young Chinese people.  Instead of attaching numbers to good luck or ominousness, young people start to create festivals that satisfy their emotional needs, such as love. In other words, they attach numbers with what they like but not what they fear, either to gain or to lose.

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