Feeling lucky?

The standardized language/ dialect of China is Mandarin (which is what people mean when they say "speak Chinese"). Mandarin is interesting since it doesn't really have a great vocabulary, instead it's the tone of the words that is important. So a word that an English/Swedish person would pronounce "ma" might mean "mother", "linen", "horse" or "to scold" all depending the tone used - rising tone, falling tone, rising tone then falling or flat tone.

This gives rise to an interesting phenomenon; people try to avoid words or numbers that might have a bad or unlucky meaning. Let me give you a few examples when it comes to numbers:

Number 4 (pronounced: ) is a very unlucky number in China as it is homophonous with (sounds the same as)  “death”, this is why a lot of streets skip the number four and people will go out of their way to avoid using the number in phone numbers or on car license plates.


They skipped the 4th floor in this building and you can only go to 3 or 5.


Number 8 (pronounced: bā) is on the other hand considered a lucky number as it sounds similar to “prosper” or “wealth”. Because of this the number eight is prominent in phone numbers, and the phone number with all digits being eight was sold for $270 000! I suppose that person was already fairly wealthy!


A very lucky number plate!


Another example of the Chinese attitude towards the number eight is that the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing began 2008-08-08, at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm. And you might have been part of this craze if you ever been on the KLM flight from Hong Kong to Amsterdam - named KL888.


The number 13 which is considered unlucky in many western cultures is actually considered lucky in China as it sounds  similar to “definitely living”.


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