Monday, January 26, 2009


It's the Chinese New Year, or so I'm told by commercials for Mandarin all-you-can-eat buffets.

(Holy damn, now I want to go to Mandarin. Seriously. Anyone want to come-with?)

It struck me earlier today that the idea of luck or chance is deeply-ingrained into Chinese culture. I remember hearing once that Chinese people pay huge bucks to get phone numbers with 8's in them. Little did I realize the heights of lunacy these people go to, in the name of luck... until I talked with a Chinese-Canadian colleague of mine about it today.

JTL: "So, that country's pretty big on luck, isn't it?"

Colleague: "Yeah, pretty much."

(J asks Colleague about the phone-number thing)

C: "Oh, that's nothing. You know how the number 4 is unlucky, right?"

J: "Ah... no. Fill me in."

C: "Well, there are four tones in Cantonese — when you say a word your voice either goes up, down, stays flat, or goes down and then up. But, if you say the word for 'four' with the wrong tone, it sounds like the word 'death'."

J: "But that's a coincidence, isn't it?"

C: "Doesn't matter. Four is so unlucky that, up in Markham [huge Asian population up there], houses with the number 4 in the street-number sell for less."

J: "That's crazy. So, you can get good deals up there, eh?"

C: "Not really. Eventually you're going to sell the house, right? Good luck selling it to a Chinese person if it has 4 in the number."

I thought North America was pretty weird about the number 13, and it is. China takes the cake when it comes to superstition, though, and the number 4 is just the tip of the shitberg.

1 comment:

Eve said...

A friend of mine in elementary school moved into a new house and her parents got the number of the house legally changed from 4 to 2. It made sense at the time.