Many Vietnamese believe that numbers are directly linked to good or bad fortune, although what each number means to different people can vary enormously. Words by Gemma Price.
Written by The Word Ho Chi Minh City Saturday, 03 January 2009 07:34
Numerology is any system, tradition or belief in a mystical relationship between numbers and physical objects or living things. While different numbers have different meanings to different people, it is possible to discern a general trend in people’s beliefs.
0 Stands for nothing, completeness, God, a complete cycle, or infinity, just as the symbol used to denote it is a closed circle. Many believe zero to be the most powerful number.
01 Sometimes used as the definition for unity, it represents birth in the Buddhist cycle, but can also mean loneliness.
02 Considered a positive number, two represents life in the Buddhist cycle.
03 Like the western saying “third time lucky”, many Vietnamese believe that three is the maximum number of attempts for success. If you fail on the third attempt, then you will never succeed and should give up.
04 Tetrophobia is a well-documented phenomenon in Asia – four is considered extremely unlucky in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese cultures as it sounds like the Chinese word for death. Because of its negative associations, this number is significant in feng shui and is avoided wherever possible. For example, it’s unlucky to build a house with four floors.
05 In Cantonese, five means ‘self’ or ‘me’, and is also associated with the five elements (wood, water, earth, metal and fire).
06 Considered extremely lucky by some, six also represents ambivalence for others. Many Vietnamese equate the number six with happiness.
07 Although many people do not consider seven particularly significant, in some systems it is associated with togetherness, making it lucky for relationships.
08 Considered very lucky – the Chinese word for eight is ‘prosperity’, ‘fortune’ or ‘wealth’. Many businesses pay more for telephone numbers with a large number of eights. The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing began on 08/08/08 at eight seconds and eight minutes past 8pm.
09 In the Chinese system, the number nine is good because the word is a homonym for ‘sufficient’. As ten is equated to zero, nine is considered the maximum possible, or most positive. Some people like it for this reason, while others prefer the number eight because it means the best is still to come. In Cantonese, nine can mean ‘long lasting’, so it’s a popular number for weddings.
10 Represents zero in many numerological systems.
13 Similar to the western belief, many people consider this an unlucky number, which is why some apartment and office buildings do not have a 13th floor – they may be numbered 12a or sometimes skipped entirely – and many businesses do not have contracts or invoices numbered ‘13’.
14 Considered unlucky by Chinese as the characters are similar to accidents, and when read separately mean ‘will certainly die/fail’. Many Vietnamese believe the 14th day of the month is an unlucky day to travel.