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#88 Numbers (8-8-08)

Posted August 8th, 2008 by Shaun · 28 Comments

Just in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shaun’s much anticipated “Numbers” post is finally unveiled. If you’ve ever had a thought about why the Olympics this year are starting on August 8th, 2008 (8-8-08) at 8.08.08 pm, this post is just what you needed.

For over 4 thousand years, Asians have had a love affair with numbers. Maybe it stems from the relationship between the Asian and concepts of logic and rationality. Maybe it is because the Asian is naturally gifted at math. I mean, this Asian has been taught to love numbers so much he insisted this article be given #88 in order to keep it auspicious and prosperous. Whatever the case, Asians just love their numbers!

While many peoples’ appreciations for numbers may only extend as far as 5318008 on a calculator (so as to view the hilarious consequences from upside-down), a great deal of Asians have had a far more intimate relationship with numbers (no pun intended).

Aforementioned “typical” asian characteristics established on Stuff Asian People Like include the need to be calculative as well as the need to rationalize matters. Therefore, numbers, and by extension, the subjects of mathematics provide an outlet for an Asian’s natural inquisitions into calculation and rationality. Numbers also provide a safe haven for Asians, as they are grounded in abstract roots and make us utilize our favorite side of our brain ““ the side that processes logical reasoning and whatnot “¦ just the way we like it!

Here’s a fun test. Do either of these two chains of numbers have any significance to you? ’3 5 8 13 21 34″ & ’4 8 15 16 23 42″. If you said yes ““ congratulations, it’s likely you’re an Asian! If not, then no matter ““ you’re probably still an Asian anyway! (I mean, this is Stuff ASIAN People Like after all). The point is that numbers hold a special place in Asian minds. Even if you could not decipher meaning from either of those numerical chains, they must have at least piqued your curiosity somewhat to give them a quick second glace.

But remember that numbers don’t define who we are. Nevertheless, they have a major influence on our lives. Heck, look at some of the Asian superstitions that revolve around our dear numerical friend.

For instance, can you believe that a Chinese number-plate bearing ‘AW6666″ sold for the equivalent of $US34,000? This is because unlike in Western culture (where the number ’6″ is usually a bad omen), the number 6 in Chinese culture signifies ‘everything going smoothly.” It is in fact a desirable figure to have around one’s everyday items.

Conversely, the number 4 gives off the opposite vibe. Is it then some sort of eerie coincidence that in each of the Chinese, Japanese, Korean & Vietnamese languages, the number 4 sounds like the word for ‘death”? Evidence of this is seen in a great deal of Asian flats, where blatant omission of a 4th floor is customary. Due to the Asian’s fear of this number, scientists have actually given it a scientific name. We know this fear of the number 4 as ‘tetraphobia.” Avoid it at all costs!

As a matter of fact, here’s a brief anecdotal diversion: this author’s parents were actually house hunting recently, and struck one house off the list of potential purchases, simply because it was at number 14 ““ which in Cantonese (my mother’s tongue) is pronounced ‘sup sei” ““ or in English, translated means ““ ‘sure die”! So by that logic, we were sure to die if we bought that house (lucky we didn’t buy it then)! Whatever the case, there is no competition when it comes to the almost unanimous lucky number for Asians”¦

That prestigious position, without question has to go to the number 8. Our good friend ‘eight” (in Chinese at least) is a near homonym for the words for wealth“ or ‘prosperity.” The Roman numerical ’8″ is also symmetrical ““ putting it at the top of the numerical dog-pile. Look at it this way, if there was some sort of Asian beat-down where each number from zero to nine had to fight each other to the death; ‘eight” would come out triumphant without even raising a sweat. From more obscure acts such as the purchase of the Chinese phone number 8888-8888 for approximately $US270,000, to the enormity of the Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony on 08/08/08 at 8.08:08 p.m. ““ the number eight is totally all-encompassing, and affects us Asians in a way we cannot imagine!

Okay, okay, it must also be noted that this author’s parents found so much significance in numbers, that they went out of their way to make sure their son was born on the exact date of 08/08/88 so as to bring their child into the world on a prosperous and lucky day, as per Chinese superstitions regarding the number eight.

So, unless you’re a centurion born on 08/08/1908 or a newborn just born to enter this world on 08/08/2008, then may this author submit the proposal that he is automatically a luckier person than any of you! Hehe.

Ultimately, Asians do use a large portion of their lives worrying about numbers, whether it is for leisure, business, or mere superstition. (at least compared to other ethnic groups.) Why is this? How did that stereotype of the ‘Asian being good at math” stereotype come about? Following on from that, why do so many Asians end up becoming accountants, mathematicians or in some other field that requires numerical prowess? Those are the questions where no definitive answer should be given. So there you have it, are numbers really an Asian’s best friend?

P.S. The 1st chain of numbers is an extract from the famed Fibonacci sequence. The 2nd are the numbers from the television series ‘Lost”. Yep, you guessed it; this piece is just a blatant excuse to reference some Italian mathematician and a popular TV series.

ALSO: notice that this article was released on August 8th, 2008 at exactly 8:08:08 AM. We love our numbers! -Peter

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Tags: Activities · Comedy · Culture · Customs · Environment · Finance · Hobbies · Japanese · Korean · Literature · People · Relationships · Social · Superstition · Tidbits · Vietnamese

28 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sy88 // Aug 8, 2008 at 8:42 am

    haha kudos on releasing it at 8.08am too. I’m just sitting here early morning on the 9th watching the olympic opening ceremony as we speak.

    Just a minor thing now that it is 08/08/08, since it’s under your name, might wanna edit this: the soon to be born centurion born on 08/08/1908 is now actually a centurion, and the soon to be born fetus is now a newborn baby born on 08/08/2008. Just pointing that out, if some people wanna be pedantic about it =)

  • 2 sy88 // Aug 8, 2008 at 8:44 am

    booyeah, as i type this… we’re on exactly 8 views for this page, no joke!

  • 3 Hundun // Aug 8, 2008 at 9:53 am

    “Is it then some sort of eerie coincidence that in each of the Chinese, Japanese, Korean & Vietnamese languages, the number 4 sounds like the word for ‘death”?”
    No eerie coincidence, just a borrowing of Chinese writing along with a local pronunciation of the Chinese characters. The Koreans and Vietnamese don’t use the characters much anymore but they still have the Chinese loan words. The Japanese do the best though, they still have the characters, the Chinese loan word pronunciations of the characters (two sets often), and their own home grown words with their quite different sounds. But you already knew that didn’t you.

  • 4 doogle // Aug 10, 2008 at 7:12 am

    LOL at the home buyers not buying no.14. Is the number 144 even more lethal? My sister and her family live at that address. Nice home, on a canal, but she and her husband think it’s unsellable to an Asian family.

  • 5 T // Aug 10, 2008 at 7:18 am

    When I was young, we lived in a house with the number 1414 (to die for sure… twice!). That was my family’s first house in Canada and we lived there for 4 years before my parents divorced (bitterly). My father still talks about how we were destined to be unhappy because of the address.

    We had a neighbor a few blocks away who changed their house number to 18 even though their neighbors had house numbers with 4 digits.

  • 6 YASPy Chick // Aug 10, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Interestingly, though, I’ve lived in homes with “24″ in it three times, and nothing bad has ever happened.

  • 7 Tali // Aug 13, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Well I was born 08/08/86. So not only am I lucky, but I’m wiser than the author, simply because I am older than the author. Not to mention I’m an African American female, attractive, and obviously diverse: hence I’m on the SAPL website. So ha.

    I laugh in your face. ^_^ lol

    And that’s totally not a joke either.

  • 8 Tali // Aug 13, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    OH yah. I’m only the 8th comment, as of now.


  • 9 sy88 // Aug 14, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Well kudos on being born on 08/08/86 that Tali. I’d argue you one 8 short of my sort of luck though =) If you’re wiser than me because you’re older, then bring on someone born on 08/08/85 then we’ll see…

    And Peter will be happy we’re attractive a whole diverse range of people right now! So thanks for coming on here!

    P.S. Darn, I wanted that 8th comment spot!

  • 10 jpc // Aug 14, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    wait wait…did the writer use the 4 8 15 16 23 42 from lost? if not…creepy…

  • 11 sy88 // Aug 19, 2008 at 12:19 am

    jpc, that was the idea… look at the Post Script. Just one of many random pointless references that I enjoy dropping into my pieces…

  • 12 tavi // Aug 23, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    so, my name is octavia, which means “the eighth.” does that mean im auspicious or something in chinese culture?

  • 13 D // Aug 26, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    I don’t think 4 is unlucky number in Vietnam. “Bon” and “tu” both mean 4, while “chet” means death. Although “tu tu” means suicide, it sounds different from 4 because of the accent marks(I didn’t include the accent marks). If you change the tone of a word slightly, the whole meaning can change. Also the 5th born child is called 4. They skip 1 for some superstitious reason. Tu is also a unisex name but it has accent marks that make it sound different from 4.

  • 14 craziforsythia // Aug 26, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    I was shunned by my asian society when I was little because I could not master the multiplication table at age 6.

    Oh, the shame… I still can’t do the 7 times table, by the way. I can evaluate integrals, but 7×7 just never felt right to me…

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  • 16 aki // Nov 3, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    My ex-boyfriend is a Vietnamese and if 4 was bad luck for them, they surely wouldn’t light four joss sticks to place before the lord buddha on the alter… =_=

  • 17 Jon // Jan 3, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    wow… I do not watch lost and i spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out what the second sequence was. I had to take 2 minutes on the first one b/c u left out the “1 1 2″ I’m accustomed to xD.
    And you left out the semi-bad number 9, which sounds like “dog” in some dialects of Chinese.

    No mention of 250 or 520? (Retard and “I love you” respectively)

  • 18 joe // Jan 11, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    i was just told that in vietnam, the number 10 is extremely unlucky. maybe the most unlucky number of all. any truth to this?

  • 19 Han // Jan 28, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Really? I always thought that the number 79 was extremely lucky bcuz of one of those three gods in taoism or confucism? I don know cuz I’m a Vietnamese Buddhist.

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  • 21 languageman // Feb 15, 2009 at 3:02 am

    For those of you Viets not in the know, tử is 4 and death. Look it up. Don’t think that because YOU use one word for death there isn’t another one.

    Are you familiar with the word tử thần <– death god. tử means death and thần means god. Figure it out.

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  • 23 eric schmidt // Mar 27, 2009 at 9:25 am

    the arabic numeral “8″ is symmetrical. The roman numeral “viii” is not.

  • 24 Mitsuwo // Apr 19, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I am the Japanese citizens. Of all nukbers, I like the number ’8′. 8 has brought many good things. On the baseball team of my school, I was the number 8. Pitcher of the best was me. I was also the best hitter. My last name has 8 letters. I was born in April on the 8th day. I have deep connection with 8. Howevr, i hate math.

  • 25 MegaMillionsDrawing // Apr 30, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    The number is 8 have been my lucky number!!

  • 26 Valerie // Jul 26, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I was born 8/8/67 which meant that I turned 21 on 8/8/88 which I thought was a very cool date to be coming of age ;) I am not Asian, but enjoying your blog very much as two of my very dearest friends in this lifetime are Asian.

  • 27 Faye // Sep 2, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I was born 08/08/88 weighing 8lbs 8oz…I have always been told that I am a child of fortune because of it and I never really knew why the number 8 was so important…until reading your blog! However, I am not Asian but British…but still it’s nice to know!

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