When it comes to picking those winning numbers for lotteries, Westerners tend to choose those with some personal significance.Birth dates, ages of their children and, of course, lucky numbers are all popular choices.In China, the importance of, and obsession with, specific numbers goes much deeper…
Here we try to uncover some of the mysteries.
People are prepared to spend quite a bit of money making sure of „favorable“ numbers.In 2000 December, a businessman in Xiamen paid more than $25,000 for a phone number ending with five 8s, because ba, the pronunciation of 8 in Chinese, sounds similar to that of fa, the Chinese character for „prosperity.“
The Chinese concept of numerology is shared with other cultures and is based on mystical as well as Taoist traditions, namely the I-Ching, or „Book of Changes.“
According to the Taoist tradition, odd numbers are considered to be male or yang; even numbers are feminine, or yin.
零 Zero: Represents nothingness, completion and God. It has no beginning and no end, but is infinite. Zero is symbolized by a circle.
一 One: Portends honor and leadership. And one also symbolizes something constant in the development of things. So when Chinese use numbers to start off idioms, phrases or sayings, the overwhelming first choice is the numeral one, used about four times as often as the next most popular.
二 Two: Stands for „doubling up.“ Being made up of 1 and 1, two is the number of co-operation, the balance between two opposite poles, yin and yang, man and woman. A very popular Chinese saying affirms that „Happiness comes in Twos.“
三 Three: allows all things to be possible. It is the number of luck and success.
It is also a spiritual number. According to the I-Ching, three stands for Heaven, Earth and Man. When Chinese bow to offer incense, it is always done three times.
四 Four: Four is the number of material order.
The geometrical shape of the number four represents the physical world, as is often found in architecture, a square base symbolizing ground contrasts with the round roof symbolizing the sky. This is believed to maintain a celestial and earthly balance.
五 Five: A very popular number in Chinese culture since it occupies the central position (one through nine) and also reflects the Five Elements Philosophy-water, gold, wood, fire and earth.
It is also associated with the five blessings wished upon families and individuals on auspicious occasions, namely long life, wealth, health, love of virtue and a natural death.
六 Six: Sounds similar to the word „wealth“ in Chinese, and therefore is considered very auspicious.
七 Seven: has always been a universally auspicious number, from the seven wonders of the world and seven deadly sins, to the seven-day week and seven hills of Rome. China is equally enchanted by the number. It sounds like „sure“ in Chinese. Buddhists believe in seven reincarnations and seven weeks of mourning following a death.
八 Eight: Sounds like „multiply“ in Chinese and is considered a fertile number.Geometrically, it is the octagon, two interlaced squares or the eight pointed bagua, avery auspicious shape often used in fengshui for protection.
九 Nine: Is the greatest of all primary numbers because it contains the qualities of all the others. It is complete in itself and needs no other number to complement it.Nine stands for the final state of completion, the ultimate fulfillment.
At one time it was considered the sole preserve of the emperor. If a courier made a robe with nine dragons on it, if found he would be sentenced to death along with all his families and relatives. The country was composed of nine continents with nine provinces.
However, in different dialects of China, numbers may take on different complexions.
For examples, in Cantonese the number two is fortunate, because it sounds similar to „easy“ in the dialect. Three is associated with living or giving birth, eight with prosperity, and nine with eternity or power.
Combinations of numbers are also prized for their punning references to good luck and prosperity, the two most important issues in the minds of many Cantonese.This belief that certain numbers bring good luck is often put into practice when naming businesses and clubs that hope to attract customers.
Yet numbers are not always considered lucky. The numeral four, pronounced si in bothe putonghua and Cantonese, sounds similar to the character for „death.“ Thus many people tried to choose a home or business phone number without a four.