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The Number 4 in Vietnam

The following story is told by my old high school teacher regarding his life in Vietnam:

“My Buddhist friends will NEVER write the number 4 – not for any reason. Nothing is priced at 4 dollars, and nobody will accept 4 dollars for anything or give it in change. Some people don’t leave the house on the 4th, although that does not seem to have spread to the 14th or 24th much”

Analysis: He collected these observations overtime by living in Da Nang, Vietnam and making friends with the locals.  He completely immersed himself in Vietnamese culture and started getting involved at a local orphanage where he interacted with and financially supported children in the orphanage.  This helped him connect to Vietnamese culture and helped him learn first-hand of many of Vietnam’s folklore practices such as their superstitions regarding numbers by hearing stories from locals and observing everyday activities.  This piece of folklore serves as a classic example of number superstition in Vietnamese culture.  However, it is important to note that the superstition is only about the number 4 by itself; numbers that include the number 4 are fine.  It is interesting because the Chinese have a similar superstition about the evil of number four.  In both Vietnamese and Chinese, the number 4 in their respective languages is very similar to the word death in those languages.  This trend is also observed in other East Asian languages including Korean, Japanese, and Cantonese.

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