Four holds a curiously ambivalent place in Chinese cultures. It’s a multiple of the number two, and two by two is a sequence for which Chinese people have a high regard. There are numerous auspicious examples of the use of the number four in Chinese society.
In terms of schools of thought and places of learning, there are the four classic books: The Analects of Confucius, Mencius, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Great Learning. There are four essentials of the ritual doctrine, being moral etiquette, righteousness, frugality and humility. On a more elemental level there are the four directions on north, south, east and west, and the four season, spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Buddhism has the four holy mountains of Mt Wutai, Mt Jiuhua, Mt E’mei, and Mt Putuo.
In artistic culture, the four plants of bamboo, orchid, plum, and chrysanthemum represent a cultured personality and conduct in Chinese paintings. There are four styles of brush calligraphy, being regular script, cursive script, official script and seal script. In Peking Opera there are four celebrated female roles played by male singers, Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, Shang Xiaoyun, and Xu Huisheng.
Even medicine makes an appearance with the four traditional steps to assess health: observe, listen, question and check a patient’s pulse. And last but not least, most Chinese idioms are comprised for four characters.
On the other hand, in Chinese, four, pronounced si, sounds similar to 死(si, death). As a result, people are reluctant to include four on car number plates or in telephone numbers. This reluctance originated in Guangdong and its surrounding areas, and has now spread to many places in China.
Six is a very lucky number for Chinese people. A popular saying is 六六大顺 , which literally means six and six, lucky and smooth. Due to the belief that six is associated with smoothness, 66,666, 6666 are favorite numbers for Chinese people. Similar to three and four, six denotes various things. The cosmos has six dimensions: heaven, earth, the east, the west, the south, the north, the upper and the lower. Nature is thought to have six types of mood: overcast, sunny, windy, rainy, dim and bright. People have six passions: happiness, anger, sadness, joy, love and hated. There are six farm animals : horse, ox, sheep, chicken, dog and pig.
In terms of family, a person traditionally has six classics include The Book of Songs, The Book of History, The Book of Rites, The Book of Music, The Book of Changes, plus The Spring and Autumn Annals. Chinese medicine believes there are six excesses shown in syndromes caused by wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness and internal heat. There are also many idioms and expressions with the character for six, such as 六畜兴旺，六亲不认，六神无主,etc……
In western countries, six is related to different cultural ideas and has evil implications. Ronald Reagan’s house number was 666 before Nancy changed it to 668. On the contrary, number seven is considered a holy number in the west and seen as lucky seven. In Bible, there are many special sevens: the Christian concept of creation of the world as related in Genesis in six days, and day seven is for rest. Pharaoh’s dream was a prediction of seven good harvest years to be followed by seven years of famine. The Lord spoke to Moses that the field to be sown in six years and the seventh is the Sabbatical year. Every 49 years, seven by seven, the Jews will celebrate the Year of Jubilee.
In Chinese culture, the number seven also feature rather prominently in some aspects of life. For example, in Zhou Yi it was noted, “He will return and repeat his(proper) course. In seven days comes his return. There will be advantage in whatever direction movement is made.”There are also seven in many things, such as seven holes, mouth, eyes, ears and nostrils; seven colors, red, orange, yellow, green, azure, blue, purple; seven types of prescriptions in Chinese medicine, major, minor, mild, emergency, odd, even and compound.
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