Numbers have a special significance to Chinese. Most Cantonese believe that numbers 4 or 44 or 444 and so on are very bad, as they are a homonym for death. The Chinese would not buy a motor car with such a licence plate or stay in a hotel room with such a number. Some buildings even skip floors having the number “4” !
On the contrary, Eight is seen as good and the more eights the better. People pay huge sums of money for a number plate having an ‘8’ on them. Such number plates are also auctioned.
Another good recent example is provided by Yaohan, a Japanese department store that opened in Beijing in 1992. More or less as a joke, the person in charge of the pens labelled a rather splendid 14-carat gold pen for sale at 88,888 yuan (approximately $11,000). The lucky numbers worked – he not only got that amount, but it was the first pen sold!
In traditional China, the odd numbers were traditionally seen as masculine and the even ones as feminine, which meant in a society with a strong preference for boys, odd numbers were generally preferred. Three is a good lucky number as is five, which is probably connected with an old belief in five elements, five grains and five tastes as well as the old Imperial ranking system of officials.
Seven is also often seen as a lucky number, as are multiples of it such as 14, 21, or 35.
Nine was an extremely lucky number, and 81, the square of nine particularly so; on your travels you might notice that almost all ancient gates in China have eighty-one stud heads on them. At weddings in some parts of China, as part of social custom the groom was forced to pay sums of money to the bridesmaids in order to get to see his bride. He hands it over in multiples of nine.