Chinese Unlucky Numbers

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Numbers That Are Unlucky in China:

Luckiness and unluckiness go in pairs. While there are Chinese lucky numbers, there are unlucky ones.

Now we've talked about the lucky ones; it's time to know the numbers that are thought unlucky by Chinese people.

To the Chinese, the unlucky numbers are 4 and its combinations. "Four" sounds like "death" in Mandarin and quite a few Chinese dialects. The number "4" is to be avoided in China as the number 13 is in the Western world.

Don't be surprised if you find a 13th floor in China's tall buildings but no 4th floor, or if you can't find a cell phone or car license number that begins or ends with 4.


Four Can Also Be an Unexpected Lucky Number

However, Chinese people also believe "When ill luck reaches its limit, good luck comes in." In Chinese symbols, the sentence looks like this: When ill luck reaches its limit, good luck comes in.

This philosophy was expressed in both Lao Tzu's Dao De Jing and I Ching, indicating that "to be extreme is to be its opposite." In Chinese: ; and that "An oppressed army fighting with desperate courage is sure to win." In Chinese: .

Sun Tsu's Art of War also uses this principle. It's called Zhi Zhi Si Di Er Hou Sheng, meaning "deploy troops in such a way as to leave no room for maneuvers or routes for escape so that the soldiers will fight for their dear lives out of desperation and eventually win the battle." In Chinese it looks like this: .

Due to this notion, while lucky numbers are sought after most, the unlucky number with certain combinations are pursued by some who can see the transformation and turning of luck.


For example:

When 4 is presented repeatedly as 4444, it gets rid of the ominous conotation and takes on auspicious meaning. For this very reason, a license plate with the number 4444 was bid from RMB 635,000 to RMB 1,000,000 (about US $160,000) in May 2008, while 8888 started as RMB 75,000 and ended also much lower.

Besides the reason mentioned above, what motivated the competition for this number were some other cultural beliefs:

  • First, 4 sounds like "water" in the Chao Zhou dialect, and water represents money in that area.
  • Second, the look of 4444 resembles four rockets neatly shooting towards the sky. It is a very good sign that signals your fortune to be like the rockets shooting high into the sky.

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