A few days ago, the Hai-Kou city of Hai-nan Island of China, has announced that they will no longer use the number 4 for their car license plate registrations.

The officials maintain that citizen does not like the number four.

“Four” sounds “si” in Chinese. It also sounds like “death” in Chinese too.

Superstition? It is all about “Yi-tou“, a Chinese term that is difficult to translate into English. It is something like “building up a premonition”— in this case, an inauspicious premonition– to see a number that reminds you of death.

The word “death” can also mean failure in Chinese.

This is similar to westerners’ dislike of the number 13.

The Tramp Tower, if I remember right, has no 13th floor. Similar thing found in some buildings in Hong Kong or China, there is no 4th or 14th floor. It is harder to sell units in the 4th and 14th floor of a building.

In the case of 14th floor, the meaning is even worse– it sounds like “guaranteed death” (or doomed!) in Chinese sound.

On the other hand, the number 7 which is regarded lucky in the west, is not that lucky in Chinese custom.

“7” is a unit of counting for the number of days that a person had died. We have “the first 7” to mean someone had died 7 days (with a special ceremony). At the 49th days (4 x 7) there will be another ceremony for the departed.

Here is a little known secret about the number 7— house street address with the number 7 (e.g.: xxx7) or the numbers of the a street number total 7 (e.g. 124= 1+2+4 =7) , has high probability of being haunted or found with ghost inside the house.

Ken Lai