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The Phonetic Sound of “8”

The number 8 is to Chinese people what the number 7 is to Western culture, and likely much more so. After all, would Westerners go to the extreme of forking over thousands upon thousands of dollars for a license plate stacked with 7s the way a select few Chinese individuals have done for license plates teeming with 8s? But why exactly does the number 8 hold such supremacy in the minds and hearts of the Chinese? The answer is quite simple.

The mystical appeal of the number 8 lies, first and foremost, in phonetics. The sound of “8” in Chinese (“ba” in Mandarin and “baat” in Cantonese) is phonetically similar to the Chinese word for “prosperity” or “wealth” (“fa” in Mandarin and “faat” in Cantonese). The association, therefore, of the number 8 with prosperity is a foregone conclusion for the Chinese. Anything touched by the number 8 must therefore bring wealth and riches to its owners, be it license plate numbers, telephone numbers, residential and business building numbers, wedding anniversaries or birth dates.

The number 8 is ubiquitous in daily life for the Chinese wherever they may find themselves. All we need do is look up the phone number for a Chinese-owned and operated business to confirm that at least one 8, if not more, makes up the business’ phone number. It is no small wonder then that traditional Chinese parents with children on the verge of marrying will sit down and carefully comb through dates to pick the most auspicious one that they believe will bring their children and their children’s future spouses the happiness and longevity every couple hopes to have.

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