Six, Eight, and Nine

The informant is of Chinese descent, and was another attendant of an assembly meeting. The atmosphere was very relaxed and informal, and while we were waiting for it to start, I brought up this folklore project.


What sort of meanings do the numbers six, eight, and nine have in Chinese culture?


“Cause there’s a lot of homophones in Chinese, and so they have like homophones associated with positive words. Let me see… six sounds like- it’s like the word for “to flow” it like relates to luck, so… Eight relates to… let me see… to a word that means prosper and wealth. And then nine is just the number of heavens. So like, a lot of the times, the Emperor would have like nine dragons and stuff like that.”


What catches my attention about this is that the Chinese cultural associations behind the numbers six, eight, and nine are debatably less common of a trivia fact compared to the Chinese cultural associations behind the number four. If I had to guess, I would say that it is because negativity stands out more. Also, in this specific case, the fact that “four” in Chinese sounds like Chinese for “death” is a trivia bit that fits in well with American holidays and special days like Halloween and Friday the 13ths. As such, it has a slightly higher degree of relevance whenever these days come around.


Besides being an example of number superstition, this piece also aligns well with homeopathic magic in general. Following the idea that “like produces like,” the appearance of six, eight, or nine in nearly any context would be viewed favorably. The specifics of how these blessings of luck or wealth would be applied is left unclear, but a driving sentiment seems to be that it is nice to have them than to not, and that it is certainly better than a four.