August 10, 2008


For Chinese the number 8 is considered lucky just like the number 7 is considered lucky in the West. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Olympic games in China start on August 8, 2008 or 08/08/08. In China you have to pay extra to have the number 8 in your phone number or license plate. In addition, home and business owners like to have the number 8 in their address.

Among the qualities that made 8/8/08 so attractive to Chinese Olympic officials is the numeral's perfect symmetry: it's the only number that can be sliced in half, horizontally or vertically, with each half mirroring the other. Chinese numerology is itself a hall of mirrors, in which other numerals do not fare as well as the Great 8. For Chinese, the lucky number eight represents getting rich, like 7-7-7 in America.

The value of the number eight is also tied to the Chinese affinity for homonyms. The Chinese like to make use of sounds that make them feel comfortable. The word for "eight" in Mandarin sounds similar to the word which means "prosper" or "wealth". In regional dialects the words for "eight" and "fortune" are also similar.

If you're Chinese--every fifth person in the world is--an eight not only portends prosperity but confidence and money worth even millions, depending where you are.

Because of the fruitful associations with the number eight, many Chinese citizens make an effort to pluck up items that bear its likeness. License plates and cell phones with plenty of eights are particularly common requests. The Chinese try to get the number eight in addresses, phone numbers, even car license plates. An airline reportedly paid $300,000 five years ago to buy 8888-8888 for its telephone number. With an explosion of cars in the country, bidding sometimes takes place for lucky plates.

It doesn't cost you anything to believe in good luck. If you have a license number with an eight, you drive more comfortably. If you live in a house with an eight, you live more comfortably. Thinking that you are blessed, you perform better. When you have two eights, as in the area code 818, it's doubly pleasing to the Chinese ear.

As the world turns its gaze to Beijing for Friday's opening ceremony of the Olympic Games - set to begin on 8/8/08 at 8:08 p.m. - a record throng of 9,000 Chinese couples also will be lining up to get married. It's no coincidence that the world's athletes will be marching into the Olympic stadium at the same time that history's biggest bridal registry becomes the great wall of wedding china.

Last year, parents in China began trying to conceive babies who would be born on August 8. Hospitals have had to add extra beds. Many doctors will perform planned Caesarean sections, a common practice in China.

The Asian culture definitely is more attuned to astrology, numerology and the good luck thing than Western culture. That didn't stop the same kind of crazy thing from happening on 7/7/07 - a number embraced by Westerners for its lucky charms. The number eight doesn't have the same appeal to the Japanese or Koreans--whose cultures have been influenced by the Chinese--but all three cultures are united in their avoidance of the number four.

Eight is the only number that looks huggable, which may explain why so many cultures embrace it. In Judaism, the eighth day of a boy's life is when he enters into a covenant with God and the Jewish people by having his foreskin removed. The bris is a sacred ritual, but it could also be the reason you won't see a lot of Jewish men rushing out to get married Friday.

The faith in the number eight was shaken May 12 -- 88 days before the Games were to begin -- when an earthquake killed nearly 70,000. That caused some bloggers to worry about the number being bad luck this year. They also pointed to a massive snowstorm on January 25 (1+2+5=8) and widespread protests against Chinese rule in Tibet that happened on March 14 (3+1+4=8).

But many Chinese still believe the lucky number brings the promise of many gold medals in the country's coming-out party.

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