The meaning of numbers in Chinese culture

Numbers have significance in Chinese culture. The number three, san, is considered lucky because its character is similar to the one for birth – sheng. It also represents the three stages in a person’s life – birth, marriage and death.

Another lucky number is five, wu. In Chinese cosmology and philosophy, it’s associated with the five elements, wood, water, fire, metal and earth, and the five cardinal points, north, south, east, west and center.

The number nine, jiu, has a historical association with the emperor, whose robes would often be embroidered with nine dragons, as well as with the Chinese myth of the dragon with nine children.

It may be wise to take these sensitivities into account in your business activities. For example, don’t choose a date containing the number four for a corporate event, such as signing a contract or a company opening. Otherwise, people may consider you an erbaiwu, the Chinese for 250, which means idiot in Chinese slang.


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