Just in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shaun’s much anticipated “Numbers” post is finally unveiled. If you’ve ever had a thought about why the Olympics this year are starting on August 8th, 2008 (8-8-08) at 8.08.08 pm, this post is just what you needed.
For over 4 thousand years, Asians have had a love affair with numbers. Maybe it stems from the relationship between the Asian and concepts of logic and rationality. Maybe it is because the Asian is naturally gifted at math. I mean, this Asian has been taught to love numbers so much he insisted this article be given #88 in order to keep it auspicious and prosperous. Whatever the case, Asians just love their numbers!
While many peoples’ appreciations for numbers may only extend as far as 5318008 on a calculator (so as to view the hilarious consequences from upside-down), a great deal of Asians have had a far more intimate relationship with numbers (no pun intended).
Aforementioned “typical” asian characteristics established on Stuff Asian People Like include the need to be calculative as well as the need to rationalize matters. Therefore, numbers, and by extension, the subjects of mathematics provide an outlet for an Asian’s natural inquisitions into calculation and rationality. Numbers also provide a safe haven for Asians, as they are grounded in abstract roots and make us utilize our favorite side of our brain ““ the side that processes logical reasoning and whatnot “¦ just the way we like it!
Here’s a fun test. Do either of these two chains of numbers have any significance to you? ’3 5 8 13 21 34″ & ’4 8 15 16 23 42″. If you said yes ““ congratulations, it’s likely you’re an Asian! If not, then no matter ““ you’re probably still an Asian anyway! (I mean, this is Stuff ASIAN People Like after all). The point is that numbers hold a special place in Asian minds. Even if you could not decipher meaning from either of those numerical chains, they must have at least piqued your curiosity somewhat to give them a quick second glace.
But remember that numbers don’t define who we are. Nevertheless, they have a major influence on our lives. Heck, look at some of the Asian superstitions that revolve around our dear numerical friend.
For instance, can you believe that a Chinese number-plate bearing ‘AW6666″ sold for the equivalent of $US34,000? This is because unlike in Western culture (where the number ’6″ is usually a bad omen), the number 6 in Chinese culture signifies ‘everything going smoothly.” It is in fact a desirable figure to have around one’s everyday items.
Conversely, the number 4 gives off the opposite vibe. Is it then some sort of eerie coincidence that in each of the Chinese, Japanese, Korean & Vietnamese languages, the number 4 sounds like the word for ‘death”? Evidence of this is seen in a great deal of Asian flats, where blatant omission of a 4th floor is customary. Due to the Asian’s fear of this number, scientists have actually given it a scientific name. We know this fear of the number 4 as ‘tetraphobia.” Avoid it at all costs!
As a matter of fact, here’s a brief anecdotal diversion: this author’s parents were actually house hunting recently, and struck one house off the list of potential purchases, simply because it was at number 14 ““ which in Cantonese (my mother’s tongue) is pronounced ‘sup sei” ““ or in English, translated means ““ ‘sure die”! So by that logic, we were sure to die if we bought that house (lucky we didn’t buy it then)! Whatever the case, there is no competition when it comes to the almost unanimous lucky number for Asians”¦
That prestigious position, without question has to go to the number 8. Our good friend ‘eight” (in Chinese at least) is a near homonym for the words for ‘wealth“ or ‘prosperity.” The Roman numerical ’8″ is also symmetrical ““ putting it at the top of the numerical dog-pile. Look at it this way, if there was some sort of Asian beat-down where each number from zero to nine had to fight each other to the death; ‘eight” would come out triumphant without even raising a sweat. From more obscure acts such as the purchase of the Chinese phone number 8888-8888 for approximately $US270,000, to the enormity of the Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony on 08/08/08 at 8.08:08 p.m. ““ the number eight is totally all-encompassing, and affects us Asians in a way we cannot imagine!
Okay, okay, it must also be noted that this author’s parents found so much significance in numbers, that they went out of their way to make sure their son was born on the exact date of 08/08/88 so as to bring their child into the world on a prosperous and lucky day, as per Chinese superstitions regarding the number eight.
So, unless you’re a centurion born on 08/08/1908 or a newborn just born to enter this world on 08/08/2008, then may this author submit the proposal that he is automatically a luckier person than any of you! Hehe.
Ultimately, Asians do use a large portion of their lives worrying about numbers, whether it is for leisure, business, or mere superstition. (at least compared to other ethnic groups.) Why is this? How did that stereotype of the ‘Asian being good at math” stereotype come about? Following on from that, why do so many Asians end up becoming accountants, mathematicians or in some other field that requires numerical prowess? Those are the questions where no definitive answer should be given. So there you have it, are numbers really an Asian’s best friend?
P.S. The 1st chain of numbers is an extract from the famed Fibonacci sequence. The 2nd are the numbers from the television series ‘Lost”. Yep, you guessed it; this piece is just a blatant excuse to reference some Italian mathematician and a popular TV series.
ALSO: notice that this article was released on August 8th, 2008 at exactly 8:08:08 AM. We love our numbers! -Peter
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