Superstitions in China

The Chinese are highly superstitious people. Up to this day the average business person would get an almanac calendar at the beginning of the year and consult it every day, to make sure that it is a good day to do one thing or other. A fortune teller is a respected profession, and taoists have devoted centuries to studying and developing the art of looking into the future.


  1. The number 8 (八 bā) is the most auspicious one. It sounds like "wealth" (发 fā). Chinese people like to have that number in phone numbers, license plates, etc. They also prefer to schedule events for dates with 8 in them. Remember how the Olympic games in Beijing began on 08.08.2008, at 8 seconds after 8:08 p.m.?
  2. The number 9 (九jiǔ) sounds similar to "lasting", "durable" (久 jiǔ).
  3. Another auspicious number is 6 (六liù), which sounds exactly like the word for "flow", "stream" (流 liú).
  4. The number 4 (四 sì) is unlucky. It sounds similar to "death" (死 sǐ) and is the unluckiest of them all. Never get a business partner to sit at table 4 in the restaurant or stay in room 4 (or the fourth floor for that matter) at a hotel.
  5. A recently emerged meaning is being attached to the number 1, which is now connected to being single. Traditionally, in China people went straight from being too young to being married. In recent years, however, the country is changing under the influence of the Western culture and now China has its Singles Day, on 11.11, where the four "ones" symbolize individuals who are alone.
- Lots of superstitions originate from one word sounding like another. This is because the Chinese language has a total of 409 syllables. The rest is a combination between these and the four tones. That is why many words have either similar or identical pronunciations.

Gift giving
  1. Never give a watch or a clock as a gift. A clock (种) is pronounced zhōng, the same as "end" (终). It means that you wish this person came to an end, in other words, you wish they were dead.
  2. If you are eating a pear, do not even think of cutting it and giving one half to a friend. To share a pear (分梨/fēnlí) means to separate (分离/fēnlí).
  3. Sharp objects are a bad idea. They harm your relationship. Examples are: knives, swords, scissors, letter openers. If you receive one, you need to give back some money, usually a small coin, which symbolizes the fact that it is not a gift but a purchase so there will be no bad luck involved.
  1. Fish is a very good idea to end a meal with. The word (鱼/yú) sounds like the word for "surplus" (余). That is why in many Chinese restaurants you will see fish tanks; fish are often depicted in paintings and pictures of them are hung on the walls of many Chinese homes.
  2. On your birthday you are supposed to eat noodles because they are long and symbolize a long life. Of course, they can not be cut. Who would want to cut their life?
  1.  Never stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, that is how food is served to the dead at funerals. Place them on the table next to the bowl instead.
  2. Do not separate the chopsticks, they go in pairs. Symmetry is hard-coded into Chinese culture. When things go in twos, that is fine; when not - you are disturbing the peace.
Chinese New Year
  1. If you sweep your house, you will sweep your luck away. The house needs to be clean but that is done before New Year's Eve.
  2. The same with your hair, if you cut it or wash it around New Year, you cut away or wash away you luck.
  3. Chinese people believe that whatever you dream of on New Year's Eve will come true, so many simply avoid going to bed for fear of having a bad dream.
  4. Noise drives away the bad spirits, so there have to be plenty of fireworks and fire crackers for New Year. 
  5. Clear all your debt before the holidays, so you can start the new year not owing anybody any money. It matters how your year starts, and everyone tried to start it debt-free, hoping it will stay that way.