car_99999In North America, if you visit cities with large concentration of Chinese like Los Angels, San Francisco, Toronto or Vancouver,  you can easily spot luxury cars with license plates full with the numbers 3, 8, and 9.  99% of the time, you can guess the car owners are Chinese.

Chinese people are superstitious about these numbers because they sound auspicious to them.  The number “3” sounds like “growing or growth” and “alive or live”.  The number “8” sounds like “prosperity or making big money”.  Number “9” sounds like “forever or long-lasting”.

License plate with special combinations of these numbers, like “989898”  (“making big money forever”), “383838” (“growing big money”) or simply “888888” (“making big money”) and the likes are routinely auction off by the governments in Hong Kong and China for big money.

V99999 auctioned for RMB$ 3.2 M

Recently in a city in Guangdong Province of China,  a group of  special car license plate numbers were auctioned off.  Below are the prices:

  1. “V99999” was auctioned off for RMB$ 3.2 Million (US$463k). This is the highest priced license number in China.
  2. “V88888” was auctioned off for RMB$ 2.5 Million (US$362k).
  3. “V89999” was auctioned off for RMB$ 1.6 Million (US$232k).
  4. “V89888” was auctioned off for RMB$ 1.0 Million (US$145k).

Some netizens joke about the V99999 and V88888 license plates by counting the number of 8 and 9 in each plate.  There are FIVE number 9 in V99999 and also FIVE number 8 in V88888.  The word “five” sounds like “not or no” in local Cantonese dialect (“ wu“).  Hence, when  the car license plate is pronounced, it becomes:

  • Five “8”  — so in local dialect, “Five 8” sounds like “no prosperity or not making big money“! (粵V88888,5個8(唔發)。車主一世都唔發…。)
  • Five “9”  (the “9” pronounce as  “gou” which means “enough or sufficient”)– so in local dialect, “Five 9” sounds like “not enough or sufficient“! (粵V99999,5個9(唔夠)。車主一世都唔夠…。)

Does this numerology fetish work?  At the minimum it provides a psychological boost to create the belief that luck is on your side because of this auspicious license plate.  The huge sum paid for this license plate also projects an aura of being a successful person and is also a form of conspicuous consumption.

Similar number fetishes also happen in email addresses (like my email address, cell phone numbers and even street addresses or apartment numbers.

Ken Lai

© 2017 Ken Lai, all rights reserved.

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