Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Unlucky Number Four

Friday the 13th came and went last week, which reminded me that one of my great contributions to China is my willingness to pick up all the Chinese unlucky numbers as part of my bank account number, phone number, or license plate. The number "four" is considered particularly unlucky here and our car's license plate includes two of them.

And why is this "four" so unlucky, you wonder? Well the Chinese word for "four" is  四, which is pronounced as sì (tone going down). This sì sounds almost the same as the Chinese word for "death," which is 死, pronounced as sǐ (tone going down then up).

Would you want a phone number that sounds like 139-1101-917-death? Or a license plate seemingly ending in "...zero-death-death"?

And it's not only the unlucky "four" in my phone number that makes it bad, but also the lack of a decent amount of "lucky" numbers, such as a "two," "three," "eight," or "nine." All those "zero's" and "one's" are not doing much for me I believe.

Nice driving with a license plate that sounds like "...zero-death-death..."

The unlucky car in its natural habitat. I think I actually took this picture to show you that it's not always a pollution day here. The sky was awesome and very blue. What now unlucky numbers?!

In het Nederlands: Het cijfer "vier" is nogal een ongelukkig cijfer in het Chinees. De "" van "vier" (zeg "si" en laat de toon van hoog naar laag vallen) klinkt bijna hetzelfde als "" van "dood" (dezelfde "si", maar de toon gaat van hoog naar laag en terug omhoog). Je kan je misschien wel voorstellen dat een nummerbord dat klinkt als "...dood-dood" hier niet zo geliefd is. Voor ons maakt het natuurlijk niet veel uit (wij hadden wellicht meer problemen met het cijfer 13), dus het cijfer "vier" wordt relatief vaak aan de buitenlanders gegeven.


  1. Hey Anna, nice post. When I was living in Southeast Asia, the "overseas Chinese" community as the large immigrant Chinese were called had a huge influence on, e.g., house numbering systems in like Malaysia and Indonesia (probably also Taiwan and Thailand don't know for sure) so that on a typically middle class - upper class neighborhood you had completely random house numbers based on their luckiness.

    Nice to see the blue sky; it would be nice to think your husband is making some progress. :)

  2. Hi Jim, thanks for your comment! That's funny, when the numbering is completely random. I had already heard of hotels where there are no 4th, 13th (to accommodate the foreigners), 14th, and 40th through 49th floors! That's one way to build a 50-storey building...

  3. true I always thought is was just like our 13th thing but it is much more complicated and widespread, with birthdays, funerals, wedding days and even unlucky combinations of couples who may have wrong birthdays. If you want to make a good impression you must have no unlucky numbers on your business card or address!
    oh and yes,a great blue sky picture.