Learning Mandarin: Nine – long lasting

This is the tenth in a series of posts where I'm looking at how the Chinese view numbers, often from a superstitious basis.

Nine

The Chinese character for nine (Jiǔ) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above.

The number nine is also a lucky number. Once again, that comes from the fact that it's pronounced similarly to 久 (Jiǔ) which means "a long time". In some contexts, it can mean "long lasting" or even "everlasting". Because of the latter meaning, you'll often hear it used in weddings.

The number has older relevance to emperors, regarding the nine bestowments and later the nine-rank system for exams. Emperor's robes were often adorned with nine dragons. The forbidden city was said to have had 9,999 and a half rooms.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

Learning Mandarin: Eight – the luckiest number of all

This is the ninth in a series of posts where I'm looking at how the Chinese view numbers, often from a superstitious basis.

Eight

The Chinese character for eight (Bā) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above.

The number eight is by far, the luckiest number.

It's luck comes from it's similar sound to 发(Fā) which is commonly used in 发财(Fā cái) which relates to good fortune. You'll hear it in New Year greetings with 恭喜发财 (Gōngxǐ fācái).

A double 8 looks like a character that's used to denote immense joy.

You'll see 8's everywhere in Asian communities because of this. You'll have a much easier time selling a house number 8 to a Chinese couple. Many airline flights from other countries and destined for China have many 8's in them.

The best example of how seriously this is taken is that when the Olympics was held in Beijing, it started on the 8th of August in 2008, at 8 minutes and 8 seconds past 8PM.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

Learning Mandarin: Seven – a mixed bag – vital energy but ghosts and omens

This is the eighth in a series of posts where I'm looking at how the Chinese view numbers, often from a superstitious basis.

Seven

The Chinese character for seven (Qī) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above.

The number seven is a bit of a mixed bag, in terms of positive and negative feelings.

Seven is considered good for relationships, particularly because it sounds like 起 (Qǐ) which means "to get up". It also sounds like 气 (Qì) which can mean just something like "gas" but it often means "spirit" or "vital energy".

On the downside, it also sounds like 欺 (Qī) which is a word for bullying, cheating, or swindling someone. In Cantonese, the word chāt sound like the word chat which is often used for "penis".

Again on the positive side, the 七夕节 (Qīxì jié) festival is a bit like a Chinese Valentine's day, yet again on the negative side, the seventh month is the one that Chinese believes has ghosts and spirits rising from hell. There is even a ghost festival.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

Learning Mandarin: Six – smooth or slick

This is the seventh in a series of posts where I'm looking at how the Chinese view numbers, often from a superstitious basis.

Six

The Chinese character for six (Liù) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above.

The number six is usually placed into the more lucky than not category in Chinese. Once again, that's because it sounds like another word. The word 流 (Liú) is usually translated as "flow". Mostly it's in relation to things like streams.

However, it's considered lucky in terms of good things flowing to you.

In Cantonese, the word lok is similar to another word lok that means happiness or good fortune, so it's even more positive there.

Curiously, sixes are treated quite differently in Chinese to how they're treated in the West. 666 would be very lucky in Chinese, but is "the sign of the beast" in Western (largely Christian) cultures.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

Learning Mandarin: Five – about me?

This is the sixth in a series of posts where I'm looking at how the Chinese view numbers, often from a superstitious basis.

Five

The Chinese character for five (Wǔ) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above.

The number five is slightly on the lucky side of neutral in Chinese, where people believe there are five blessings: luck, prosperity, wealth, longevity, and happiness.

Similarly, it has been associated with the five elements: water, earth, fire, wood, and metal. There is some past association with emperors.

It sounds a bit like the word 吾 (Wú) which means "I", "my", or "me".

While that's all good, it also sounds like 无 (Wú) which is more like "nothing" or "not" or "without". That has the possibility of being either good or bad.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

Learning Mandarin: Four – death…

This is the fifth in a series of posts where I'm looking at how the Chinese view numbers, often from a superstitious basis.

Four

The Chinese character for four (Sì) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above.

Four is universally regarded as a bad number in Chinese culture. Once again, that's because it sounds like other words.

In particular, four sounds like 死 (Sǐ) which means "death". It's similar in Cantonese where the word is sei, it's the same issue. It's considered an unlucky number because of this.

You'll find buildings in Asia that don't have a floor 4 (similar to how many Western buildings years ago had no floor 13). Some buildings take it even further and have no floor 4, 14, 24, 34, and so on.

Four is so frowned upon that people avoid saying it, and don't display it anywhere. People will get upset if they're issued an ID or credit card that has the number 4 in it.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

Learning Mandarin: Three – important stages of life?

This is the fourth in a series of posts where I'm looking at how the Chinese view numbers, often from a superstitious basis.

Three

The Chinese character for three (Sān) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above. It's three single lines (probably originally sticks).

Generally, the number three is regarded as a good number in Chinese culture. Many times, meanings of Chinese numbers are related to other words they sound like. While three doesn't sound all that close to 生 (shēng), in Cantonese the word is sāang, which is much closer.

Either way, 生 means life and is often directly related to birth.

出生 (Chūshēng) is to be born and even though Chinese aren't really into birthdays (at least traditionally), 生日 (Shēngrì) is the word for "birthday".

Many historical tales in Chinese use three in a positive way. You'll come across restaurants like "three kings". Some see it as a heavenly number, associated with prosperity.

Unfortunately though, there is another meaning associated with three. While in Cantonese, it sounds a bit like sāang, it also sounds a bit like sāam, which relates to separating or breaking up with someone or something. So that's the downside of this number.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

Learning Mandarin: Two – easy going or reckless?

This is the third in a series of posts where I'm looking at how the Chinese view numbers, often from a superstitious basis.

Two

The Chinese character for two (Èr) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above. It's two single lines (probably originally sticks).

Generally, the number two is regarded as a good number in Chinese culture. Similar to the English saying, the Chinese have an equivalent saying for "good things some in pairs".

Two suggests happiness, joy, and luck. However, two can also represent stupid and reckless.

Because the Cantonese word for two is similar sounding to the word for "easy", two is also often associated with "easy". A good example is that the number 24 is often regarded as "easy death" or "reckless death". We'll talk about 4 later.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

Learning Mandarin: One – for winners, singles, or for loneliness

This is the second in a series of posts where I'm looking at how the Chinese view numbers, often from a superstitious basis.

One

The Chinese character for one (Yī) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above. It's a single line (probably originally a stick).

Sometimes when it's written on bank notes, checks (cheques), etc. it's often written as a different character:

That's to avoid fraudulent changes, which you can imagine it would be easy to make for a character that's just a single line.

Cultural Concepts

One isn't regarded as a special number. Obviously it can be good when it's assigned to a winner.

But often in Chinese, one can represent being single or being lonely.

11/11

A few years back, the Alibaba company created a special day just for singles. It's called Singles' Day or shown in Chinese as double-one, double-one: 11/11. It's held on November 11th.

The Western tradition of Valentines Day has been creeping into China but there are so many single people who find it a depressing day, particularly with endless pressure from their parents for them to get married. Singles' Day is a celebration of being single, and it's an excuse for single people to spend money on themselves.

You might think that sounds peculiar but it's worth noting that it's now the largest retail event in the world, by a long, long way.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

Learning Mandarin: Zero – everything or nothing

One thing that always fascinates me about Chinese culture, and probably about most Asian cultures, is the endless belief in luck, both good and bad. I have to admit that nowadays I have little time for any form of superstition. I think it's just a throwback to periods where we just understood far less about the world. I think you make your own luck, again both good and bad.

In Chinese culture though, numbers are especially significant. If you've ever wondered by there is no 4th floor in some Chinese buildings, or the misfortune to try to sell a house with 24 as the street number, or the good fortune to be selling a house with 8 as the street number (or 88 even better), you'll know what I'm talking about.

Many Chinese people view things that happen in their daily lives through a perspective where numbers are having an effect.

So I thought I should spend a short while, talking about each of the standard digits and how they're seen.

Zero

The first we'll look at is zero. The Chinese character (Líng) is shown on the right hand side of the main image above.

It's sometimes seen as a good number but other times, it's seen as just neutral. It's good nature no doubt relates to the fact that it sounds like another word that is a notion of "sacred".

Zero can relate to either nothing, or everything, as it is limitless. Everything is seen as starting with zero.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.