China is a very superstitious place where colors and numbers carry great significance and luck comes about through care and consideration, rather than blindly being portioned out to the nearest soul. In particular, the numbers 3, 6, 8 and 9 are all considered lucky in China, while fortune can be given a helping hand by observing certain dress codes.
Many numbers in China have obtained their lucky status due to the simple fact that when spoken they sound familiar to other positive words, rather than any connection or value in the numbers themselves. For example, the number 8 is pronounced ‘ba’ and sounds similar to ‘fa’ which means ‘prosper’ or ‘wealth’. Six on the other hand, sounds like the word for ‘smooth’ and so is especially popular during Chinese New Year as people believe that the number will ensure them a ‘smooth’ 12 months ahead.
Numbers are considered such good fortune for not only individuals, but also businesses and some affluent Chinese individuals and companies are willing to fork out big bucks to secure a ‘lucky’ license plate for their cars or phone numbers, like Sichuan Airlines for example, who forked out US$280,000 for the number 8888-8888 ten years ago.
Even and odd numbers are also judged, especially when given as a gift. As we mentioned recently in our Lunar New Year blog, during Chinese New Year children are given red envelopes always containing an even amount of cash, as odd numbered monetary donations are traditionally handed to the bereaving family during a funeral.
Of course, where there is good luck there must also be bad, for one could not exist without the other. The main number of ill fate is 4, a number that’s closely associated with death due to its almost exact pronunciation of both words. Whereas car license plates and phone numbers containing 8 are highly valued, those containing the deathly number 4 are avoided at all costs.
Superstition for negative numbers even comes into effect in building planning, and it’s common to find buildings in China and Hong Kong that don’t contain any floor with the number 4 (ie. 4, 14, 24, etc. or any floor from 40-49).
Superstition in China is not limited to just numeracy however. Red in particular is awash all throughout the vast nation and is considered by far the luckiest of colors. Red corresponds with the ‘fire’ element and is viewed as a color of fortune and joy and is only forbidden during somber occasions such as funerals. Continuing the morbid train of thought, whereas black is the color of Western funerals, white is traditionally associated with death and mourning throughout China.
Other key colors of note include blue, which symbolizes immortality, and yellow (or gold) which is represents neutrality and good luck and is considered the most beautiful of colors.
So next time you visit China or Hong Kong, make sure you pack your wardrobe with plenty of reds and yellows and be on the lookout for any lucky numbers you might come across!