Chinese Gambling Superstitions at jianping.com

Numbers to Avoid or Bet On

In China, certain numbers are believed to be lucky (吉利) or unlucky (不利) based on the word that the number name sounds similar to. Since the pronunciation and the vocabulary may be different in different Chinese dialects, the rules are generally not applicable for all cases.

Numbers to Avoid

Four
Number 4 (四; accounting 肆; pinyin sǐ) is considered an unlucky number in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cultures because it is pronounced the same as the word "death" (死 pinyin sǐ). In East Asia, some buildings do not have a 4th floor, much like the Western practice of some buildings not having a 13th floor because 13 is considered unlucky. In Hong Kong, some high-rise residential buildings literally miss all floor numbers with "4", e.g. 4, 14, 24, 34 and all 40-49 floors, in addition to not having a 13th floor.

Number 14 is considered to be one of the unluckiest numbers. Although 14 is usually said in Mandarin as 十四 "sh sǐ," which sounds like 十死 "ten die", it can also be said as 一四 "yi sǐ" or 么四 "yāo sǐ", literally "one four". Thus, 14 can also be said as "yāo sǐ," literally "one four," but it also sounds like "want to die" (要死 pinyin yào sǐ).

In Cantonese, 14 sounds like "sap6 sei3", which sounds like "sat6 sei2" meaning "certainly die" (實死).

Five
Although five (五, pinyin: wǔ) can represent "me" (吾, pinyin: wú) in Mandarin, it is usually associated with "not" (Mandarin 無, pinyin wú).

If used together with another number that is considered unlucky, it can become positive (like double negation). For example, putting five and four (54) together means "not die" or "no death".

The number 5 (五, Pinyin: wŭ) is also associated with the five element guardians (Water, Fire, Earth, Wind, and Metal) in Chinese philosophy, and in turn was historically associated with the Emperor of China. For example, the Tiananmen gate, being the main thoroughfare to the Forbidden City, has five arches.

Six
Six in Cantonese which has a similar pronunciation to that of "lok6" (落, meaning "to drop, fall, or decline") may form unlucky combinations.

However, the number 6 (六, Pinyin: li) in Mandarin is pronounced the same as "leew" (溜, Pinyin: liù) and similar to "fluid" (流, Pinyin: liú) and is therefore considered good for business. The number 6 also represents happiness. In Cantonese, this number is a homophone for blessings (祿 Lok). In I-Ching, the number 6 stands for "yin".

Seven
Seven is considered spiritist or ghostly. The seventh month of the Chinese calendar is also called the "Ghost Month". During July, the gates of hell are said to be open so ghosts and spirits are permitted to visit the living realm.

However, the Chinese lunar calendar also has July 7 as Chinese Valentine's Day (七夕 qi xi), so the number 7 is not generally associated with bad luck. In most of the regions in China number 7 remains neutral or associated with luck.

The number 7 (七, Pinyin: qī) also symbolizes "togetherness". It is a lucky number for relationships. It is also recognized as the luckiest number in the West, and is one of the rare numbers that is great in both Chinese and many Western cultures. Others consider the number 7 as lucky because it sounds alike to the Chinese character 起 (Pinyin: qi3) meaning arise.

Numbers to Bet On

Two
The number 2 (二 or 兩, Pinyin: èr or liăng) is a good number in Chinese culture. There is a Chinese saying: "good things come in pairs". It is common to use double symbols in product brandnames, such as double happiness, double coin and double elephants. In Cantonese, two (jyutping: yi6) is a homophone of the character for "easy" (易).

Three
The number 3 (三, Pinyin: sān, jyutping: saam1) sounds similar to the character for "birth" (生, Pinyin: shēng, jyutping: saang1), and is thus considered a lucky number.

Eight
The word for "eight" (八 Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means "prosper" or "wealth" (發 - short for "發財", Pinyin: fā). In regional dialects the words for "eight" and "fortune" are also similar, e.g. Cantonese "baat3" and "faat3".

There is also a visual resemblance between two digits, "88", and 囍, the "shuāng xĭ" ('double joy'), a popular decorative design composed of two stylized characters 喜 ("xĭ" meaning 'joy' or 'happiness').

The number 8 is viewed as such an auspicious number that even being assigned a number with several eights is considered very lucky.

Nine
The number 9 (九, Pinyin: jiu, jyutping: gau2), being the greatest of single-digit numbers, was historically associated with the Emperor of China; the Emperor's robes often had nine dragons, and Chinese mythology held that the dragon has nine children.

Moreover, the number 9 is a homophone of the word for "long-lasting" (久), and as such is often used in weddings.

Thirteen
The number thirteen is lucky in Chinese because it sounds close to "definitely living."