The Cultural Significance of Chinese Numbers and Their Combinations

Lucky number 8 on the background of wooden keg lotto pieces.

In China, people consider eight the luckiest number since 8 represents prosperity. (Image: Serhii Yevdokymov via Dreamstime)

Numbers hold a significant place in Chinese culture, as they are believed to represent different aspects of life, including fortune, harmony, and love. Numbers can be taken as either a good omen or a bad sign, but there is no denying the distinction between the two. 

Here, we will explore the significance of the lucky and unlucky numbers in Chinese culture, as well as the top number combinations used to convey various meanings, especially among young people in China today.

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The significance of Chinese numbers

8 — The luckiest number

In China, people consider 8 the luckiest number since eight represents prosperity. “Eight” in Chinese sounds very similar to the word for “wealth” or “prosperity.”

The number eight frequently appears in Chinese culture; for example, it is used for building locations, contact information, license plates, wedding anniversaries, business launch dates, and other significant events. Also, the number eight has significant value in ancient and contemporary Chinese culture, making it a favorite among Chinese people.

Building with address "888" seen in the windows.
Chinese people love it when the number eight shows up in the address for their business. (Image: Sofi Kov via Dreamstime)

2 — Harmony

As the Chinese believe that everything good comes in pairs, the number two is considered lucky.

In general, even numbers are seen as harmonious and balanced, while odd numbers are seen as disruptive and unbalanced. When it comes to numbers used for monetary transactions in China, a random digit is often regarded as equivalent to zero, especially if it is an odd number. This is because the belief in harmony and balance extends to money as well, and a random odd number is seen as disrupting the balance of a transaction or financial situation.

6 — Flowing

The number 6, which sounds like the word for “flowing” or “running smoothly” is associated with good fortune, wealth, and success.

According to ancient Chinese philosophy, the number 6 represents balance and harmony. This is because it is seen as the combination of two sets of three — one set representing heaven, earth, and mankind, and the other set representing yin, yang, and the five elements. Therefore, 6is also believed to represent balance and harmony between different forces in the world.

9 — Everlasting

Like the numbers 6 and 8, the number nine is a well-liked number. When pronounced in Chinese, it sounds similar to the word “everlasting.” Therefore, it stands for durability and enduring power. Due to its meaning, Chinese couples frequently use this number for romantic gestures or expressions of love.

4 — The unluckiest number

In China, just a few numbers are deemed unfortunate, but the number 4 is the unluckiest since it resonates with the term for death.

The Chinese characters for numbers 1 through 10 with the English words for them written under each character.
Numbers are considered lucky or unlucky based on the words that sound similar to them when pronounced in Chinese. (Image: Viktoria Ivano via Dreamstime)

5 — Nothing

Because the number 5 sounds similar to the word “nothing” in Chinese it is sometimes associated with bad luck or misfortune.

However, 5 can also be associated with good luck. In ancient times, the number 5 was linked to the five elements of earth, water, fire, wood, and metal, which are thought to be the foundation of the planet and which were associated with the emperor. 

Pairings of Chinese numbers

Chinese people adore using lucky number combinations to convey their wishes or feelings. Nowadays, various numerical combinations are employed to convey various meanings, especially among young people in China. Here are the top combos, along with what they mean.

168 — Prosper all the way

The number 168 is pronounced similarly to a phrase in Chinese that means “prosper all the way.” When people use this amount of money as a gift in the Red Envelopes for Chinese New Year, it conveys the hope of the older generation to the younger one that their life’s path will be easy.

520 — Love

Young Chinese lovers who wish to express affection for one another frequently use the number 520. When the number is pronounced, it sounds like the Chinese phrase “I love you.”

1314 and 3344 — Eternal love

The Chinese characters for the number 1314 sound similar to “for a lifetime” or “forever,” so it is commonly used to express one’s everlasting love and commitment to someone.

The characters for 3344 sound like the phrase meaning “three lives, three worlds.” This phrase comes from Chinese mythology and refers to the idea of a couple being destined to be together across three different lives and worlds. Therefore, it is often used to express a wish for eternal love and companionship with someone.

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