Unlucky number 4

BACKGROUND: My informant, AY, is a student from China who attends school in the US. She and her family split their time evenly between China and the US. This piece is a superstition that she didn’t necessarily learn from her family, but rather something that is prevalent in Chinese culture.  

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend to discuss superstition in Chinese culture.

AY: The number 4 in Chinese sounds exactly like the word for death in Chinese so Chinese people avoid it like the plague so much so that most hotels don’t have a fourth floor.

THOUGHTS: The superstition surrounding the number 4 in Chinese culture is akin to the superstition of 13 being a feared number in Western culture. While I’m not altogether sure why 13 is such an unlucky number in American culture, the explanation for why 4 is so feared in Chinese communities makes sense. The association between the number 4 and death points to a larger universal avoidance and reverence of the topic.