Why 4 is not a good number?

Isn't it puzzling when people tell you not to say '4' in Mandarin to Chinese people on the Chinese New Year's Day in particular? Or when people said to you '8' is a good number to pick?

The number "eight" in Chinese is Pinyin: bā and it sounds similar to the word which means "prosper" or "wealth" (发 – short for "发财", Pinyin: fā). In regional dialects, the way it sounds for "eight" and "fortune" are also similar.

Besides, there is also a visual resemblance between two digits, "88", and 囍, the "shuāng xĭ" ('double joy'), a popular decorative design composed of two stylised characters 喜 ("xĭ" meaning 'joy' or 'happiness').

The number 8 is viewed as such an auspicious number that even being assigned a number with several eights is considered very lucky.
  • A telephone number with all digits being eights was sold for USD$270,723 in Chengdu, China
  • The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing began on 8/8/08 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm (local time)

So the sound matters, and makes the number ''four'' in Chinese 四 pinyin sì considered to be an unlucky number in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cultures because it is nearly homophonous to the word "death" 死 pinyin sǐ. Due to that, many numbered product lines skip the "4": e.g. Nokia cell phones (there is no series beginning with a 4), Palm PDAs, Canon PowerShot G's series (after G3 goes G5), etc.

In East Asia, some buildings do not have a 4th floor. (Compare with the Western practice of some buildings not having a 13th floor because 13 is considered unlucky.) In Hong Kong, some high-rise residential buildings literally miss all floor numbers with "4", e.g. 4, 14, 24, 34 and all 40–49 floors, in addition to not having a 13th floor. As a result, a building whose highest floor is number 50 may actually have only 35 physical floors. Look at this photo, the 4 has been replaced with an A and the preceding floor number.

Lift's putton : no 4, no 14, no 24 ^^

Photo Credit: Libriel

Number 14 is considered to be one of the unluckiest numbers. Although 14 is usually said in Mandarin as 十四 "shí sì," which sounds like 十死 "ten die", it can also be said as 一四 "yī sì" or 么四 "yāo sì", literally "one four". Thus, 14 can also be said as "yāo sì," literally "one four," but it also sounds like "want to die" (要死 pinyin yào sǐ).

In Teochew dialect, 4 is pronounced as "see" or "yes". It is seen to be a lucky number because Chinese people like things in pairs (four would equal two pairs). However, the superstitions regarding numbers from Chinese people have been adopted by the other Cantonese people.


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