Culture Corner of Chinese: Numbers in Chinese

Posted by Clarissa on 28. Apr 2010

CIO Culture Radio Text Reading Vocabulary Study Exercise


MONICA: Michael, wanna hear something unbelievable?
MICHAEL: Do I have a choice?
MONICA: Oh come on, I went to a charity auction last Sunday, and guess which product got the highest bid?
MICHAEL: I don’t know, Megan Fox’s address?
MONICA: she’s hot, isn’t she…I think she’s hotter than Angelina Jolie.
MICHAEL: Totally.
MONICA: Anyways, back to what I was saying, the highest bid was actually a QQ number. Can you believe it?
MICHAEL: a what?
MONICA: a QQ account number, ya…pretty unbelievable huh? I mean, I’ve heard that people like QQ in china, just like people like MSN in North America. But, who would think that a QQ number could sell for 260, 000 Yuan! That’s like what…almost 40,000US!
MICHAEL: wow, what QQ number was it?
MONICA: The Ultimate “88888”. The so called “luckiest number you can ever get” in Chinese QQ history.
MICHAEL: Oh, no wonder! It’s a really good number!
MONICA: So you believe in numbers too?
MICHAEL: Well, kind of. Two years ago, I bought my girlfriend a special phone number ending with 201314 for her 24th birthday. And trust me, it was 2 months of my salary.
MONICA: No kidding! What’s so special about 201314?
MICHAEL: You need to read it in Chinese. Then you’ll realize that it sounds like “love you with my entire life” in Chinese. 爱你一生一世。
MONICA: Oh how romantic!
MICHAEL: You know, Chinese numbers are believed by some to be lucky or unlucky based on their sounds. It may be difficult for foreigners to understand, but numbers are a huge deal in China.
MONICA: Is that so? Well, in North America, I can’t say we completely don’t have a thing for numbers. Like we try to avoid the number 13, and prefer the number 7. We fear the number 666 and..
MICHAEL: Wait a second; you guys don’t like the number 666?
MONICA: Ya, it’s the number of the devil man! I mean if I have a house numbered 666, I will probably burn it down!
MICHAEL: Really? It’s quite the opposite in China. You know, 6 means smooth in Chinese. So, 666 could mean everything will go smoothly. If I have anything numbered 666, I would be able to sell it on the internet for a good price. We love that number!
MONICA: Are you serious? Wow…Interesting. Why don’t you tell me what other numbers stand for in Chinese then?
MICHAEL: Well, 4 means bad luck and death, 5 and 7 means luck, 6 means fluidity, which is good for business, 8 means prosperity and wealth, 9 means forever, and also, 9 is considered as the biggest and most powerful number in China.
MONICA: Why 9, not 10?
MICHAEL: Well, in the past, odd numbers are considered as masculine, and even number as feminine. Therefore, being the largest single digit number, 9 represents the ultimate power and masculinity.
MONICA: That’s amazing! So, Chinese numbers together can form a meaningful sentence, while individually they can mean something else.
MICHAEL: Exactly. Well, personally, I find it interesting to convey a certain message using numbers than using words. It’s less direct, in a way.  
MONICA: Oh I see, thanks to you Michael, I’ve learned so much about Chinese number culture today. 
MICHAEL: Well, if you would like to know more about interesting Chinese Cultures, you can listen to CIO culture Radio from Confucius Institute. It’s very helpful.
MONICA: Ok, cool, thanks.

Do you believe in numbers? 



If you read these romantic umbers in Chinese, you will realize that it sounds like some special lucky or unlucky meanings of Chinese words.

It may be difficult for foreigners to understand, but it is an interesting culture that numbers are believed by some to be lucky or unlucky based on their sounds.

5 and 7 means luck and promotion, 6 means everything will go smoothly, 8 means prosperity and wealth, and being the largest single digit number, 9 represents the power and masculinity. If you make them together, it can form a meaningful stntence and can be used than using words to convey a certain message to be a fashion mark. That is more interesting and easier than traditional way.

Would you like to know more about what numbers stand for in Chinese? Just read the text as following.

CIO Culture Radio Text Reading                  Vocabulary Study Exercise
谐音 xié yīn
Two words are homophones if they are pronounced the same way but differ in meaning or spelling or both.

数字 shù zì
Number is the word or symbol that represents a quantity.

幸运 xìng yùn
Lucky means having a good luck.

流行 liú xíng
Popular means liked or enjoyed by a large number of people

替代 tì dài
Something replaces another one.



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