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What Does the Number 4 Mean in Chinese Culture?



Estimated reading time — 3 minutes

If you’re interested in numerology, you might have heard that some numbers hold specific positive or negative connotations in particular cultures. The number 4 is among those numbers and it’s considered a symbol of bad luck in China. While the general meaning of the number 4 is often related to some positive things, such as great organization skills, strength, and practicality, it seems like Chinese people are afraid of the number 4 and try to avoid it.

But why are Chinese people so afraid of this particular number?

In this article, we’ll discuss the meaning of the number 4 in Chinese culture, the cultural superstitions behind it, and how it manifests in everyday life.

The Number 4: A Symbol of Misfortune?

Believe it or not, Chinese people consider the number 4 as a sign of misfortune because of its pronunciation. The thing is that in Mandarin Chinese, the number 4 is pronounced as “sì,” which means “death.” Having that in mind, it’s not really surprising that the cultural meaning of this number is negative, and Chinese people associate this number with misfortune. 

There was a time when Chinese people completely avoided using number 4 in their social lives. For example, they would refuse to choose phone numbers that included 4 or avoid business meetings or family gatherings on the 4th day of the month. However, attitudes are slowly shifting and the younger generation seems a bit less impacted by the fear of this number. 

For example, modern gamblers don’t seem to care about these traditional beliefs anymore, especially when they engage in online casinos. Some of them even try to test their luck and when they try to collect Vegas Gems casino Sweeps coins online, they don’t consider superstitions involving the number 4 and try to make the most of the gaming experience, instead of relying on traditional beliefs.

How Chinese People Use the Number 4

Even though the cultural meaning of the number 4 in China is negative, it’s still one of the most common numbers that Chinese people have been using throughout history. This means that, despite the fear surrounding this number, these cultural superstitions had to coexist with the practical use of the number 4. 

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It’s true that it can be avoided in some contexts but it’s hard to completely stop using the number 4 in daily life. Here are some examples where even Chinese people fail to avoid using the number 4:

  • 4 seasons – Like most countries in the world, China recognizes four seasons—spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
  • 4 directions – Traditional Chinese feng shui also recognizes the 4 main cardinal directions — north, south, east, and west.
  • 4 elements – Similar to Western cultures, Chinese philosophy is also based on four classical elements — earth, water, fire, and wood.
  • 4 classic novels – The number 4 appears in classical literature as well. Particularly, there are four classic novels of ancient China: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of Marsh, Journey to the West, and A Dream in Red Mansions.

Meaning of Number 4 in Numerology

While the number 4 is associated with bad luck, misfortune, and even death in Chinese culture, surprisingly, in numerology, it’s just another number that’s accompanied by plenty of positive associations. For example, the general meaning of the number 4 is related to stability, order, practicality, determination, and loyalty. The reason is that the number four has a strong energy, thanks to which people who encounter this number can easily build a foundation of discipline and responsibility in their lives. 

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As a result, people who are into engineering, architectural design, and similar professions that require precision usually love this number and find it helpful to accomplish their tasks.

The Number 4 in Modern China

In modern China, people still believe that the number 4 is capable of bringing bad luck and harming them in unexpected ways. And it’s not surprising, because pronouncing the number that is synonymous with death isn’t something one can easily ignore. After all, the cultural meaning of the number 4 is something Chinese people have been learning about since childhood.

Still, it seems like modern Chinese people are less vulnerable to superstitions than before. Probably, they have realized that attaching so much meaning to numbers, especially a negative meaning, won’t affect their overall functioning in a positive way. And this, in turn, means that society has become more practical and evolved.

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