Numbers in Chinese Culture

whats-your-numberChinese culture is rich in beliefs and traditions that have extended to the numbers people come into contact with throughout their daily lives. Each number, one through nine and their combinations, has significance or special meaning in Chinese culture.

The strength of this belief is easily seen in the Olympics of 2008. As a host for this special occasion, the festivities began on August 8, 2008 and was not a coincidence. The number 8 is a very positive and lucky number in the Chinese culture.

The initial meaning of each number correlates with the word that it sounds like, identifying it as good or bad in nature. The lucky numbers are considered so because of the Chinese words that they mimic. For instance, the number 8 as previously mentioned is associated with prosperity, wealth, and fortune.

The lucky numbers are considered to be 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 because each of these are similar to positive Chinese words. The number 4 is strictly a negative number. Depending upon the context of the numbers, 5, 6 and 7 may also be considered bad luck.

The Chinese have a common saying: that good things come in pairs. There are a number of symbols that show a pairing; this is for luck. 2 is considered a good number for similar reasons.

The number 3 is associated with birth. This new growth and life is always positive.

So strong is the feeling of the number 4 being unlucky that buildings’ floors and addresses which contain this number are omitted. The number sounds like the word “death”; hence the aversion to its presence.

In Chinese culture there are five elements, making 5 a lucky number as well. However, this number sounds like the word “not” in one Chinese dialect, which also makes it an unlucky number. 5 can be considered either positive or negative depending upon the context in which it is used.

6 is a positive number for business and happiness, and as a blessing depending upon the dialect that is used. When combined or used in a negative manner it can mean “decline, fall, or drop”.

7 is a unique number which is recognized as being lucky in both Eastern and Western cultures. The Chinese believe it is a good number for relationships. However, as the seventh month is considered a time in which the gates are open to hell and spirits are allowed to roam, 7 is also potentially unlucky.

As previously mentioned, the number 8 also falls into the category of positive numbers.

The number 9 is associated with longevity and is often invoked during wedding ceremonies. This number has also been strongly associated with the Emperor of China throughout history.

The belief in the significance of numbers in Chinese culture is strongly adhered to. Depending upon the region, these numbers can be good or bad in nature and so should be addressed with caution.

As relates to modern Chinese coins, rare coins – in particular low mintage gold coins, can vary in value not just based on condition, but depending on the coin number. These impressive gold coins, 5 oz, 12 oz or kilogram in weight have a diameter comparable to a small to medium sized plate. They are extremely limited edition, with low mintages often under 300 where each coin is assigned a number. The number of the coin is on the certificate and more often that not, engraved on the rim of the coin. The most desirable number is #1, representing the first coin release of it’s type. The numbers of the coins often play a small role in the ultimate sale or asking price for the coin, wherein more buyers would generally be interested in coins not ending in a ‘4’ or ending in an ‘8’ and so on.