Translating numbers in China

As John wrote awhile back: All lucky numbers are local.

And this is particularly true in China, where people pay thousands of dollars to obtain license plates with lucky numbers.

So when it comes to naming products or setting prices, you have to be very careful about your choice of numbers. Here are some tips:

6 means “good fortune.”
8 means “abundance of wealth” or “make lots of money.”

The number 8 is a very lucky number, and the reason why China chose August 8th, 2008 to kick off Olympics Games. Vehicle license plates and cellphone numbers containing 6 or 8 are coveted and often auctioned to the highest bidder. A recent example: A C88888 vehicle license was auctioned in Guangdong where it sold for RMB800,000 (around USD113,000). The new owner hopes this license number helps bring good fortune — though presumably the owner was already fortunate enough to have the money to spend on the license plate.

9 means “forever.”

If a boy wants to buy a rose for his girlfriend, he will typically buy 9 roses. If he wants to splurge, he’ll buy 19 roses — and if he’s affluent, he’ll buy 99 roses. September 9th is Senior People Day in China, to ensure that th elderly live a healthy and long life.

4 is pronounced the same as “dead.”
13 means crazy, abnormal.

If a Chinese person says “you are 13”, it means “you are insane!” Some buildings, like in the US, avoid having a 13th floor. Instead, they use floor 12B. And although the pronunciation of 4 sounds like “dead,” there is a positive way to portray the number: In a musical scale, 4 is equialent to “fa,” which is pronounced closely to “make money” in Chinese. My old phone number contains “5854” and my Chinese friends say it is a great number because it means “I make money and then I make money again.” I am happy to hear their comments.

51 in Chinese is pronounces like “I (5) wanna (1).”

You’ll find a lot of businesses and Websites using 51 in their names. 51job is the largest online human resources company. So you can tell a lot about a company simply by the numbers it uses in its domain name. Since 1 sounds like “wanna,” the number 18 is also popular as “wanna make money” and many people will choose the 18th of the month as a new business opening date or a wedding date.

Even numbers > odd numbers

Chinese people like to use even numbers rather than odd numbers because even number are related to the concept of “pairs” which usually means “perfect” in Chinese culture.

With regards to business, if a company produces different versions of products, expect them to produce 6, 8, or 12, 36 different versions. And you can always find prices like 88.00, 128.00; 156.00 in China’s shopping malls.

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