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Chinese love numbers!

By Katrina Lin

We all know Chinese people like to apply special meanings to numbers, such as the number “8” represents prosper and number “4” is avoided because it sounds like death. Although these custom seem superstitious and outdated in the Chinese young generation’s the habit of linking numbers to meanings is still popular.

Unlike the older generation, young Chinese are not a big fans of numbers that relate to money or death. However, when numbers represent romance and shopping, their old traditions kick in.

Yesterday was May 20. The Chinese use number 1-12 to represent January through to December – as May is the fifth month of the year, “5” is “May”. The Chinese pronunciation of “520” sounds like “I love you” (wo ai ni) 5 means “I”, 2 means “love”, 0 means “you”. This is an example of using numerical digits for their similar pronunciation of daily expressions and it was initially used in mobile and cyberspace communications.

Couples choose May 20 to celebrate, buy gifts to each other, propose or even marry. More and more businesses try to leverage the marketing potential of numbers to maximise their sales profits.

Of course, these numbers are not randomly chosen, therefore try to apply the correct and positive meaning to numbers and avoid culturally offensive connotation is essential for businesses to succeed.

“11” is another interesting number in the Chinese urban dictionary, as explained earlier, November is the 11th month of the year, therefore November 11 represents “double 11”; the date is chosen to be special because of the connection between singles and the number “1”. Young bachelors in China choose this particular day to party, drink with friends or shopping to celebrate their single lives.

Nowadays, Singles’ Day has been largely popularized and more people join in the celebration regardless their relationship status. November 11 has become “the 11.11 Shopping Festival” and brings great opportunity for companies targeting younger consumers, including restaurants, Karaoke and online shopping sites. Over the years, a lot of businesses made success in those peculiar days by running sales campaigns. E-commerce giant, Alibaba (Ebay’s Chinese equivalent) sold 57.1 billion CNY (around 10 billion AUD) of goods on November 11 last year.

Usually, every number has its own meaning, they are used for certain codes because their pronunciation and linkage with Chinese traditional culture. Here are some examples:
0 (pronunced ling) = 你 (meaning: you)
2 (pronunced er) = 爱 (meaning: love)
3 (pronunced samm) = 生(meaning: birth and considered a lucky number)
4 (pronunced si) = 死 (meaning: death)
5 (pronunced wu) = 我 (meaning: I or me)
6 (pronunced liu/lok) = 流/禄 (meaning: to flow or wealth therefore considered good for business)
8 (pronunced ba) = 发 (meaning: wealth, lucky and success therefore good for financial institutions to use)

1314 (pronounced yi san yi si) = 一生一世 (meaning: forever)

Therefore, the number combination “5201314” means “I love you forever”.