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.
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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Have you ever wondered why they chose and fought hard to be the host of the Olympic 2008? they started the opening ceremony on August 8, 2008 at 8:08? It is because the number 8 is a lucky number for them and they believe it will bring good luck to their players if they start the Olympics on that date. Are you interested yet, come on now we will take a look at lucky and unlucky numbers in Chinese culture.
Lucky or Unlucky Chinese Numbers
• One means loneliness, beginning, masculine. One has a thrusting energy that surges forth new growth and potential.
• Two is considered a good number in Chinese culture because There is a Chinese saying: “good things come in pairs”. They always use double things to emphasize things as well, like double happiness
• Three is also a lucky number for them as this is similar to the character of birth.
• Four is an unlucky number and it means death. In East Asia, some buildings do not have a 4th floor. (Compare with the Western practice of some buildings not having a 13th floor because 13 is considered unlucky.) In Hong Kong, some high-rise residential buildings omit all floor numbers with “4”, e.g. 4, 14, 24, 34 and all 40–49 floors, in addition to not having a 13th floor. As a result, a building whose highest floor is number 50 may actually have only 35 physical floors.
• Five — this is a lucky number and is usually link to the five elements which are wood, earth water fire and metal. This number is usually linked to the Emperor of China as well and the Tienanmen gate. “A great practice to familiarize ourselves with the Chinese number five is to adopt the founding five Chinese blessings like Wealth– Happiness– Longevity — Luck and Prosperity. ”
• Six — The number six usually means fluidity — blessings and it is good for business, unlike in the Western world where we don’t like the number six, in Chinese culture it is a lucky number. “When we contemplate the meaning of number six in our lives we are contemplating the perennial mysteries of life contained in celestial power– cosmic focus and the cyclical nature of time.
• Seven — This is an unlucky number in Chinese. It is considered ghostly. The seventh month of the Chinese calendar is also called the “Ghost Month”. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a papier-mâché form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Elaborate meals (often vegetarian meals) would be served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family treating the deceased as if they are still living During the month, the gates of hell are said to be open so ghosts and spirits are permitted to visit the living realm
• Eight — This is their favourite number aside from nine and simply means prosperity. It is interesting to note that words and the number are similar – number eight and wealth. The value of eight is also linked with Buddhism — the Lotus flower with eight petals.
• Nine– is the biggest of single numbers and it connotes the “Emperor of China” — his robes are with nine dragons on it. Nine is a lucky number for Chinese because it connotes longevity, happiness and good luck.
Some more interesting facts about the number 8
• The Olympics in Beijing kicked off in August 8, 2008 at 8 pm, 8 minutes and 8 seconds after 8 pm.
• A Chinese man offered to sell his license plate number — A88888 for USD164,000
• A number of a telephone with all eight digits on it was sold for 270, 723 in Chengdu, China.
• The Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia each have 88 Floors.
• The minivan that GM makes for the Chinese market is called the Buick GL8, but the minivans it sold in other countries didn’t have that name.
• The Air Canada route from Shanghai to Toronto is Flight AC88.
• The KLM route from Hong Kong to Amsterdam is Flight KL888.