Every culture has its own superstitions, and the idea of lucky and unlucky numbers may be familiar – a hotel that skips the 13th floor, using your birthday for lottery tickets – but in China, lucky numbers have more permeating cultural significance, the consequences of which are visible everywhere!
This quick guide to lucky and unlucky numbers will get you on track for a prosperous adventure in China!
Lucky Chinese Numbers
Our favorite thing about lucky numbers is how they apply to modern technology. If you’re buying a new phone plan when you arrive for a study exchange in China, you’ll be asked to choose from a list of available numbers. Most people search out the ones with the most 6s and 8s, and avoid 4s at all costs! You can even pay more to get a “luckier” phone number!
Two 二 (èr)
You may be familiar with the concept of yin and yang, and the importance of balance and opposition in Chinese culture. This comes from the idea that all good things come in pairs and is a reason why 2 is lucky.
Six 六 (liù )
Many lucky/ unlucky things in Chinese culture are based on how the words sound. Chinese has many homophones – words that sound the same – and numbers have been associated with similar-sounding words to bring to light new meaning.
6, pronounced liù sounds like the word smooth (溜), pronounced liū. The number six is therefore associated with things in life going smoothly. You’ll see a lot of 6s around Chinese New Year, but also online! Don’t be confused when you encounter social media posts and comments of “666”, which westerners may think of as a sign of the devil. Don’t worry, it is a sign of good luck in China!
Eight 八 ( bā )
8 is perhaps the luckiest number you’ll come into contact with. In fact, if you’re ever unsure of the wifi password in a café or restaurant, try eight 8s (88888888). It will be the password about 80% of the time. One of the main reasons is because 8 (bā) sounds like fā in fācái (发财), which means fortune or wealth. 8 symbolizes wealth and prosperity, and along with 6, it is a common denomination to give in red packets and wedding gifts (666 RMB, 88 RMB, etc).
Nine 九 ( jiŭ )
While 6 and 8 are the most prevalent lucky numbers, 9 is lucky too! It symbolizes a long life, and is the highest number on the Fengshui scale, symbolizing masculinity. This both makes 99 roses a popular wedding gift and explains the 9,999 rooms in the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
Unlucky Chinese Numbers
Four 四 (sì)
4 may be the unluckiest number of all. 4 (sì) sounds a lot like the dead (死, sǐ). This strong association makes it a very unlucky and superstitious number. Like the 13th floor in western culture, many Chinese buildings skip the 4th floor, and many people avoid living on the 4th floor if there is one.
Seven 七 (qī)
Similarly, 7 (qī) sounds similar to gone (去, qù) and has a cultural connection with the release of dead souls from purgatory. Both of these unlucky numbers have strong associations with death and can be viewed as bad omens.
Personal Lucky Numbers
Finally, if you know your Chinese zodiac (associated with the year you were born) you can find out some extra lucky numbers that are personal to you! For example, I was born in the year of the dog – meaning that 3,4, and 9 are lucky numbers for me. These lucky numbers are another good way to pick a phone number!
Shanghai Summer School strives to provide you with a summer experience unlike any other. The summer school is primarily about learning the Chinese language in an immersive way, but it’s also about going out and discovering a new culture and making meaningful connections with its people. We would even go as far as to say that delving headfirst into the bustling metropolis of Shanghai will allow one to adopt a new and expanded worldview, and a deeper understanding of cultures different than our own.
The knowledge of new languages combined with heightened cultural sensitivity and awareness has become ever more important in the global world we live in today.