Saturday, January 26, 2008

Phone Numbers and Numerology

Numbers carry a lot of meaning in Chinese culture, and it even extends to everyday things. Here are two examples

Unlucky 4
Few weeks ago, I purchased a prepaid phone card for my cell phone. We went to Holland Village (the expat area I mentioned earlier) to buy these cards, and you can choose which phone number you want. I noticed a trend in the numbers.... they all had a 4 in them. In Chinese, the word for 4 sounds exactly like the word for death, and thus 4 is an unlucky number. It seemed like all the remaining phonecards had numbers that nobody wanted.

Even though I'm not superstitious about the numbers, I thought I should try to avoid numbers with "4" in it, you know, just in case. My roommates, however, did not know about this superstition, and one has the rather un-auspicious number of 9044-3774. That's three 4's!! My number, on the otherhand, was 9471 5836... 8 is considered a "lucky" number, and hopefully balances out the other "4"

Lucky 8
Now that Chinese new year is coming, there's lots of sales and advertisements for buying things, and since 8 is such an auspicious number, you'll see all these ads like "Buy a new washing machine, only $888, or a new computer for $1188, or win a chance to earn $888 if you deposit $88 dollars for the next 8 months. The list goes on.....


Viktoria said...

Very interesting. Russians are also very superstitious about numbers (and tons of other things :) ) but not in a consistent way. For example, 13 is generally considered to be unlucky. I've seen cases when people would not buy the last train ticket no matter how terribly they needed that ticket if it was 13th car, 13th place. And it was the last ticket left, so nobody wanted it :)

On the other hand, some people "choose" 13 to be their lucky number. For example, my dad loves 13 and even more so 58 (digits sum up to 13 by the way). His first phone number (assigned to him by chance) was 2-13-58. And then when he moved his new phone number became 2-58-58 :) He was quite happy!

At least Chinese have an explanation for why they don't like 4. Russian superstitions seem to be grounded in some obscure historical events, if grounded at all...

I hope your phone card works just fine. You can also check out They have cheap deals for prepaid phone cards from and to any country pretty much.

Kent said...

From my experience - Russians are completely fascinated by numbers, however obscure. Maybe that's why you see so many Russian mathematicians...=)