Superstition about numbers has been deeply ingrained in Chinese culture for centuries. But among all the numbers, one number stands out for its puzzling and infamous nature – the unlucky number four. To understand its enduring notoriety, this article uncovers the secrets behind the unfortunate numbers in Chinese characters, their origins, taboos, and cultural shifts.
Part 1. History and Origin of Unlucky Number in Chinese Culture
In ancient China, numbers were believed to possess distinctive energies to influence events and lives. Over time, specific numbers emerged as harbingers of misfortune due to their pronunciations or associations.
#1. What is considered an unlucky number in Chinese culture?
The most notable unlucky number in Chinese culture is 4. Other numbers like 7, 5, and, to a lesser extent, 9 are also sometimes considered inauspicious.
#2. Ancient Chinese Philosophy on Numbers
In traditional Chinese philosophy, yin and yang represent opposing forces shaping the universe. Numbers were mapped to these forces, with even numbers considered auspicious and odd ones more ominous. This binary view of numbers as lucky or unlucky became deeply rooted over centuries.
#3 Evolution of Unlucky Number Beliefs Over Time
While some unlucky numbers can be traced to ancient China, beliefs evolved significantly over the dynasties. For instance, older traditions generally avoided all odd or even numbers. But newer customs zeroed in on specific digits like four and seven. Regional differences also emerged regarding which numbers were deemed unfavorable.
#4. Regional Differences in Unlucky Number Traditions
Intriguingly, an unlucky number of superstitions in China vary across geographical boundaries. Northern regions steer clear of the number seven more strictly, while southern areas are more apprehensive about the number four. These localized beliefs spotlight the diversity within Chinese culture.
Part 2. The Infamous Number Four in Chinese Culture
Perhaps no number stirs as much dread and dismay as the notorious four. Its reputation as an unlucky number in Chinese is widely known, but the origins of this belief remain shrouded in some mystery.
Number 4 is considered as the most unlucky number in Chinese culture
#1. Is 4 an unlucky number in Chinese?
Yes, the number 4 is considered very unlucky in Chinese culture. It sounds similar to the word for “death” in Mandarin.
#2. Pronunciation Connections to “Death”
The primary reason number four is considered unlucky is its pronunciation; “si” bears an uncanny resemblance to the word for “death.” This discomforting similarity made four a verbal taboo and spawned bad luck. Even today, you’ll rarely find a hospital room labeled number four in China.
#3. Widespread Avoidance in Daily Life
Due to the fear of its baleful influence, number four is systematically avoided in China across many aspects of life. From addresses to phone numbers, IDs to car plates, and lifts in buildings skipping the fourth floor, its presence is conspicuously scarce. Caution reigns supreme.
#4. Alternative Lucky Numbers Used
Countermeasures are taken to offset its sinister aura when using four is unavoidable. Substituting the number four with more fortunate numbers like eight is common. Another approach is flanking four with lucky numbers, diluting its negative impact. Adaptability prevails.
#5. Rare Acceptable Uses of Four
While overwhelmingly shunned, the number four still creeps into certain Chinese customs. For instance, the traditional four-stringed instrument called the Sihu uses four in its name. Some buildings include a fourth floor but label it “3A” instead. Flexibility exists with caution.
If you want to learn more about the unfortunate or lucky numbers in Chinese characters, you can book a free Wukong Chinese class to learn more.
Part 3. Other Notable Unlucky Number in Chinese
Beyond the notorious four, other numbers in China likewise face avoidance due to cultural stigma and linguistic parallels to misfortune. However, attitudes are shifting with globalization.
#1.Is Seven n Unlucky Number in Chinese?
Yes, seven is often considered unlucky in Chinese culture because it sounds similar to the word for “cheating” in Mandarin.
Despite the positive associations of number 7 in Buddhism, it is still considered as unlucky number in chinese
#2. Seven’s Link to Cheating
Number seven, “qi,” sounds similar to the word for “cheat” in Chinese. This phonetic resemblance caused seven to be associated with deception. Nonetheless, seven has positive connotations in Buddhism, representing spiritual awakening. A mixed legacy.
#3. Is 6 an unlucky number in Chinese?
No, 6 is widely regarded as lucky in Chinese culture. It sounds similar to the word for “smooth” and is associated with ideas of harmony.
#4. Five Seen as “No” or “Nothing”
The pronunciation of five, “wu,” approximates the word for “not” or zero in Chinese. This linkage to emptiness, absence, and denial fueled its perception as unlucky. Still, more positive symbolism remains, like the five elements in Chinese philosophy. A hazy outlook.
The number 5 is considered an unlucky number in Chinese because of its pronunciation “wu” is similar to the word for “nothing” or “not.”
#4. Contradictions with Traditional Associations
Intriguingly, the unlucky status of five and seven contradicts some cultural traditions. For instance, five are linked to the five sacred mountains and seven to the Big Dipper stars that influence fate. Remnants of favourable associations persist despite apprehension.
#5. Modern Attitudes Towards Seven and Five
Compared to the extreme avoidance of four, contemporary attitudes towards five and seven are more neutral. While some evasion exists in auspicious settings like weddings, usage is generally tolerable in modern times. Taboos are fading with globalization.
Part 3. Navigating Unlucky Number in Chinese
For visitors in China, sensitivity regarding unlucky number in Chinese can prevent cultural faux pas. But attuning to regional and generational nuances is equally important in this evolving landscape. Adaptable etiquette matters.
#1. Implications for Foreign Visitors
Since number symbolism permeates daily life, travelers should be mindful when selecting addresses, phone numbers, and important dates. However, sticking to lucky eight and six is a foolproof option. Cultural awareness prevents discomfort.
#2. Avoiding Unlucky Number in Chinese in Key Situations
Despite shifting attitudes, caution remains prudent in traditional or superstitious settings. Using four or seven for weddings, home purchases, business launches, or birthdays may be received negatively. Read the cultural barometer when possible.
#3. Respecting Regional and Generational Differences
Considering unlucky number in Chinese taboos differ across China, so local input is valuable. Older generations also adhere more strictly to superstitions than younger groups. Seek context-specific guidance when unsure. Flexibility averts problems.
#4. Gifting Etiquette with Unlucky Numbers
Gift-giving demands extra sensitivity regarding unlucky numbers. Never gift cash gifts like ¥40 or presents in groups of four. Conversely, amounts with fortuitous eights like ¥88 and sixes are warmly welcomed. When doubts arise, ask someone local. Thoughtfulness builds bonds.
Part 4. Looking to the Future Of the Unlucky Numbers in Chinese
In today’s modernizing China, unlucky number superstitions are softening with fading taboos. Yet these cultural curiosities will likely persist in remnants, reminding us of traditions linking past and present. Evolution continues.
#1. Globalization Influences on Traditions
Ongoing global integration is relaxing traditional avoidance of numbers deemed inauspicious. Younger Chinese show less stigma against four and other forbidden numerals. However, caution remains for pivotal events like weddings. Gradual change is unfolding.
#2. Unlucky Numbers in a Modern Context
The stigma around specific numbers has lessened as Chinese society becomes increasingly exposed to different cultures and belief systems. Still, using unlucky number in Chinese can get mixed reactions from traditional older groups. Walk the tightrope artfully if possible.
#3. An Evolving Ancient Tradition
Remarkably, an unlucky number in Chinese customs have endured since ancient times while subtly evolving. As global forces transform culture, time-honored number superstitions show resilience yet malleability. The balance between past and present continues.
Part 5. FAQs About Unlucky Number in Chinese
Q1. Why is 4 considered an unlucky number in Chinese culture?
The number 4 is considered unlucky in Chinese culture because it sounds similar to the Chinese word for “death”. The pronunciation of 4 in Mandarin is “si” which is uncomfortably close to the word for death “sǐ”. This negative association has made 4 a widely shunned number in China.
Q2. What other numbers are considered unlucky in China besides 4?
Other unlucky numbers in China include 7, because it sounds like the word for “cheating”, and 5, which sounds like the word for “nothing”. However, the superstitions around 7 and 5 are less intense than those around the very unlucky number 4.
Q3 Do unlucky number superstitions affect foreign travelers visiting China?
Foreigners should be mindful of unlucky number symbolism, especially relating to gifts, addresses, and important dates. However, focusing on universally lucky numbers like 8 and 6 helps avoid any cultural faux pas. Consulting local guides when unsure can also prevent discomfort.
The unlucky number in Chinese culture reveals an ancient and evolving tradition sprinkled with regional nuances. While the notorious number four faces enduring taboos, other digits like seven and five are regaining acceptance. Adapting sensitively as cultural tides shift can deepen engagement with this mesmerizing culture. Yet remnants of old beliefs will likely always remain, keeping Chinese traditions vibrantly alive through generations.
Master’s degree from Yangzhou University. Possessing 10 years of experience in K-12 Chinese language teaching and research, with over 10 published papers in teh field of language and literature. Currently responsible for teh research and production of “WuKong Chinese” major courses, particularly focusing on teh course’s interest, expansiveness, and its impact on students’ thinking development. She also dedicated to helping children acquire a stronger foundation in Chinese language learning, including Chinese characters, phonetics (pinyin), vocabulary, idioms, classic stories, and Chinese culture. Our Chinese language courses for academic advancement aim to provide children with a wealth of noledge and a deeper understanding of Chinese language skills.