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Lucky number

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James Reynolds | 09:45 UK time, Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Beijing Olympics start at 8pm on the 8th day of the 8th month in 2008. In case you didn't get it, China has a thing for the number 8.

In this country, 8 is a lucky number (the Chinese word for 8 - "ba"- sounds like the word for wealth.) So, China's decided to start the most important event it's ever held at the luckiest possible moment.

One person already singled out for particular luck is the IOC's Honorary Life President, Juan Antonio Samaranch - who turns 88 today. A Chinese interviewer recently told Mr Samaranch how lucky he was to be reaching such an auspicious age in such an auspicious year for China. Mr Samaranch looked suitably happy to be informed of his good fortune.

If you don't happen to be 88, you can always buy as many 8s into your life as you can. Some of China's richest people pay huge amounts at auctions for car license plates containing as many 8s as possible. The same goes for phone numbers - one Chinese airline paid 340,000 USD to get all the 8s for its sales line. (Out of interest, we dialled a few mobile phone numbers containing loads of 8s - but got no answer. Presumably the owners were fed up with taking calls from strangers asking them about how lucky they were.)

By contrast, the number 4 is unlucky in China - 4 in Chinese - "si" - sounds like the word for death. We dialled a mobile phone number with the maximum number of 4s - and found that it was unassigned.

For westerners, of course, the number 13 is unlucky. So, when Chinese people and people from the West live in the same building in Beijing, it makes numbering apartment floors fairly complicated.

One example...

Missing floors on lift

Notice the floors that are missing: 4, 13, 14. Presumably the exclusion of these floors makes the building lucky enough for people of all nationalities and superstitions.


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