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In 2003 Chengdu based Sichuan Airlines made a CN¥2.33 million investment. Their purchase: the phone number 8888 8888. But why make such an enormous investment in a simple phone number? The Chinese word for 8, 八, bā, sounds similar to the word for wealth, 发, fā.
One of the many meanings given beside this word in the mobile phone dictionary Pleco is “to make a bundle of money.” During Chinese New Year a common wish exchanged is to 发财, fācái to get rich and make a fortune. Because of the similarity in pronunciation between fā and bā, 8 is considered a lucky number in China.
Eight ‘8s’ therefore, is about as lucky as a phone number can get! In addition to the fortuitous sound of the number, when doubled 8 also looks like the Chinese character for double happiness, one of the most auspicious hanzi. 88 – 囍 Xǐ.
It is not uncommon for major decisions in China to be based on auspicious numbers, and the number eight holds particular sway. The Beijing Olympics commenced on the 8th of the 8th 2008, at 8 minutes past 8pm Beijing Time. (Which is, come to think of it, GMT + 8!).
In Chinese tradition, certain numbers are believed by some to be auspicious (吉利, pinyin: jílì; Cantonese Yale: gātleih) or inauspicious (不利, pinyin: bùlì; Cantonese Yale: bātleih) based on the Chinese word that the number sounds similar to. The numbers 6, 8, and 9 are generally considered to be auspicious, while 4 and 7 are considered inauspicious.
The number 8 (八, pinyin: bā; Cantonese Yale: baat) sounds like “發” (pinyin: fā; Cantonese Yale: faat; literally: ‘to prosper’). There is also a visual resemblance between 88 and 囍 (pinyin: shuāng xǐ; Cantonese Yale: sēung héi; literally: ‘double joy’), a popular decorative design composed of two stylized characters 喜 (pinyin: xǐ; Cantonese Yale: héi; literally: ‘joy’).
The number 8 is viewed as such an auspicious number that even being assigned a number with several eights is considered very lucky.