Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The luckiest number on earth, and other contemplations

Spitgirl here. I'm still occasionally filling in for Rhonda while she's on vacation, and I managed to hit a point at work where I've done all I can for the day, but I have an appointment in an hour at a place that's fifteen minutes away and surrounded by junkies and the scent of unwashed bodies.

All that aside, though, my fiancé and I have been exploring our cultural differences (specifically, what it means to be Chinese) over the past couple of years, to much amusement on both sides. We've been forced to have some pretty intense conversations as well about cultural traditions we want to maintain and which ones to drop. If you guys are interested, I can share with you the list we came up with - specifically, which parts of Chinese culture I want to retain and which ones I want to drop.

But one of the more lighthearted conversations we had revolved around numbers. Here in North America, it's all about the lucky number 7. I'm sure it has to do something with the Judeo-Christian obsession with sevens and multiples of seven (and seventy). I read an article way back when that July 7, 2007 was the most popular wedding date because it was 7/7/07, AND it was a Saturday. The article mentioned that people wanted to make sure the relationship would last... and nowadays, every couple could get as much help as it can get.

Anyway, it came as a complete surprise to him when I casually mentioned that in Chinese culture, the number 8 is considered more lucky than the number 7, and that Chinese will go out of their way to choose 8s. Not surprisingly, 88 is TWICE as lucky, and the more 8s you have, the better. (I'm not kidding... both my parents' Email addresses contain two 8s a piece. And I have to wonder if Chinese couples will be falling over themselves to get married on 8/8/08, regardless of whether or not it's a Saturday.)

And, because you guys want to know more about it, Wikipedia has more than you ever wanted to know about numbers in Chinese culture.

I find it quite interesting, though, that the article mentions that the number 88 looks a lot like the word for "double joy" (囍 / "shuang1 xi3"). This particular character is all over the place because there is nothing better than joy except joy, doubled. This character will probably be all over the place at my wedding, because the double joy character represents good luck to a couple. In fact, it might even be upside down, so that the joy will fall out of the top of the character down onto the couple. (Okay, I might be making that up about this particular character, but there are other characters where you DO post it upside down for that specific purpose.)

The flip side of this, however, is that certain numbers that contain huge social stigma within Western culture don't have the same impact on Chinese culture. I once heard a story that there was a house with the number 666 on it, and no one would bid on it but a Chinese family.

This is the point where my fiancé looks at me incredulously, and I spread my hands out and shrug. How can I explain this? Chinese are fairly superstitious, but no more than those who fear black cats, Friday the 13th, walking under ladders (or is that a Chinese thing? either way, it's common sense), and other Western superstitions. They're just alien to those who aren't used to it.

Welcome to my world. :)

Oh yeah, and I'm still working on getting lychees to photograph.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

I have heard before that the Chinese really like the number 8 so makes a ton of sense that they will begin the Olympics next summer in Beijing on 8/8/08 at 8:00pm.

Lucky for them and it makes it easy for us to remember!