Numbers come ‘Handy’ in China!

Hand Gestures before you learn the Chinese Language!

If this is your first lesson of the Chinese Language, huān yíng (Welcome)!!

Let’s start with the non-verbal Chinese Language. The hand-gestures of Chinese are different from those used in the rest of the world. These number gestures are very commonly used by shopkeepers and whenever numbers enter the conversation.

From numbers 1 to 5, the gestures are similar to what we follow in other cultures, but from 6 to 10, they are different. Mostly there is just the use of one hand for representing all numbers.

However for 10, the both the index fingers are crossed to make it look like the Chinese Character for 10, which is 十.


Chinese number gestures (images by Ningling on Wikimedia Commons)

Counting with fingers is often different from expressing a specific number with a finger gesture. When counting, the palm can be either facing its owner or the audience, depending on the purpose.

Some also believe that for a formal scenario such as giving speech or presentation, counting with the palm facing the audience and starting with all fingers extended is more polite, since the gesture of folding of fingers representing bowing.


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