Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/31/19
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English
The informant shares how the number four is a connotation for bad luck in Chinese culture. She shared this in a group environment, where another member of the group, ‘Support,’ provided additional information to what the Informant was sharing:
Informant: We also don’t like the number 4
Me: What’s the number 4?
Informant: Like the number, four. We don’t like it. It means death. It’s associated with death
Support: Because when you say four in mandarin it sounds like the same word as death in mandarin.
Informant: So literally in my building there is no fourth floor, it’s the fifth floor.
Support: It’s kinda like how sometimes in America in buildings there’s no 13thfloor. It’s the same way… they just skip the number 4 when doing floors.
Informant: Yeah theres no 14th, 24th, they just skp the number.
Support: Oh really?! I remember seeing the 4thskipped,but I don’t remember seeing 14th.
Informant: Like in my building there’s nothing floor.
Support: yeah because you don’t wanna live on the death floor… its kind of a pun.
Informant: But then lucky numbers are six or eight for a similar reason. Eight is associated with wealth, like you’re getting more money.
I was talking with a group of friends while we were working on a class project and some of the group members wanted to share pieces of their traditions with me. It was a very casual setting and the performance took place in front of three other individuals.
The informant is from Hong Kong, China, but attends school at USC. She has experienced the stigma of the number four first hand, because there is no floor containing ‘4’ in her apartment building in Hong Kong.
I love learning about how different cultures have similar superstitions to the United States, but while similar there is a different reasoning. While the US may view 13 as unlucky, it is not that way in China.