Do you know why the 2008 Beijing Olympics began at 8:00 pm on August 8? Generally speaking, it is connected closely with the Chinese belief in lucky numbers. Numbers play a significant role in Chinese culture, as the belief that certain numbers are lucky or unlucky is very strong.
In China, the numbers 6, 8 and 9 are considered lucky. The mystery of numbers has been much influenced by the concept of yin and yang. According to custom, odd numbers symbolize “yang” and even numbers represent “yin”.
The number 1 represents honor, leadership and permanent development. The number 2, a good number in Chinese culture, is the number of cooperation and balance between yin and yang, or man and woman. A popular Chinese saying goes that “good things come in pairs”. During the Chinese wedding, you will definitely find the double symbol “囍” (a combination of two 喜) everywhere, which means “double happiness” and is something that cannot be missed for a Chinese wedding.
The number 4 in Chinese is the word “si” and sounds like the Chinese word for death, hence it is considered very unlucky. Some hotels in China do not have a 4th floor.
The number 5 is popular in Chinese culture because of the five philosophical elements –water, metal, wood, fire and earth. There are also five blessings – longevity, prosperity, health, a virtuous life and natural death.
In Chinese culture, the lucky numbers always have a similar sound to an auspicious word. The pronunciation of 6 in Chinese sounds like a word that means “flowing freely” or “everything will go smoothly”. Because of this, the number 666 is considered one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese culture.
The number 8 is pronounced “ba” in Chinese and sounds like the word for prosperity which is pronounced “fa”(发). The number 8 is the luckiest number of all and is super-lucky to the Chinese. People like to contain 8 for everything that they do, e.g. they like to include 8 in important dates, phone numbers, licence plates and countless other things. This is why the Beijing Olympic Games began at 8 p.m on 8/8/2008 – it was considered an extremely lucky and symbolic start date. In addition, the Chinese pronunciation of 8 is “ba”, so 88 could be read “baba’ which sounds like “bye bye”. So, “88” is extensively used online for “goodbye”.
The number 9 is the best number because it contains characteristics of all the others. 9 is pronounced the same as another Chinese word久 (jiu), which means “a long time” or “long life” with connotations of “forever”. To Chinese ancients, 9 was the largest single digit pertaining to human matters (as 10 and upwards belonged to heaven), and the number 9 was associated with the the emperor. Therefore the number 9 is solely for the emperors’ use. If any court official was found to have nine dragons embroidered on his robes, he was immediately sentenced to death, along with his entire family. There are 9,999 rooms in the Forbidden City and the line of knobs on any door – horizontal or vertical – numbers exactly 9.
Many Chinese people pay huge sums of money to buy lucky numbers for their licence plate, telephone number and home address. In Chengdu, the telephone number 8888-8888 was sold for more than US$ 250,000. The licence plate “AW6666” was sold for US$ 340,000 in an auction in Guangzhou.