Unlucky Number Four


E, a 22-year-old Chinese-Taiwanese female who was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is currently a senior at the University of Southern California.

Background info:

E’s first language was English, but because her parents were immigrants, she quickly learned Mandarin as well. Her parents are proud of their culture, and thus they often participated in many Taiwan and Chinese traditions, and believed many of the superstitions, as well. This is one of the superstitions Eileen’s mother believed.


Late at night, a lot of weird conversations happen. Because E is on a project with me, we were working together at around 2:00am when we started discussing superstitions. When she knocked on wood, it brought this conversation up. The following is a transcript of the conversation I had with E. (I will be represented with a J)

Main piece:

J: “Are there any other superstitions that you experienced growing up? With your family or friends? School, even?

E: “Uhh… Well, because my dad was Chinese, he would always warn us about the number 4. In Chinese, the number four sounds the same as the word death, so we would avoid it like the plague. Even today, if I have to travel, I ask to be moved to a new hotel room if I am placed on the fourth floor. In china, most of the hotels don’t even have a fourth floor. It just goes from the third to the fifth floor.… Freshman year, I had to stay on the fourth floor of the dorms, and it was one of the wort years of my life.”

J: “Why was it so bad?”

E: “Well, I was constantly getting sick, and I really seemed to struggle in my classes. As soon as I moved out of those dorms, my grades improved a lot, too! So you know, that kind of solidified it for me, I guess.”

J: “What are your thoughts on the number 7? A lot of people believe that it is almost the opposite of that. That the number 7 represents fortune or good luck. Are there any like that in Chinese folklore that you know of?”

E: “Yeah, here in the United States, 7 is big. 7 for good luck, and 13 for bad luck. Even our gambling has a game specifically for rolling dice to get 7. And of course, Friday the thirteenth. In terms of lucky Chinese numbers, the number 8 is considered to be pretty lucky. It sounds similar to a word that means ‘making fortune’ or ‘to make a fortune’.”


This superstition seems to be a common theme across cultures. There seems to be an unlucky number that cultures try to avoid. For example, I’ve also seen hotels in the United States that do not have a thirteenth floor. A lot of buildings stop at the twelfth floor, too. There also tends to be a lucky number in each culture. We have the overarching 7 being lucky, but then people in the United States also have “lucky numbers” that they look for. It could be the person’s birthday, or just a number that they experienced something positive with growing up.