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Symbolism In Chinese Culture ---Meaning of Numbers Li Liang

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1 Symbolism In Chinese Culture ---Meaning of Numbers Li Liang

2 1. The Daoism View of Nature and Numbers  The whole universe is made of two basic forces: yin (阴 ) and yang (阳)

3  Yin: the feminine or negative principle in nature.  Yang :the masculine or positive principle In nature.  Yin and yang are thought to arise together from an initial quiescence or emptiness (wuji, 无极 ), and to continue moving in tandem until quiescence is reached again.

4 Characteristics of Yin Yang  Yin yang are opposing  Yin yang describe opposing qualities in phenomena.  For instance, winter is yin to summer's yang over the course of a year, and femininity is yin to masculinity's yang in human relationships.  It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite.

5  Yin yang are rooted together  Since yin and yang are created together in a single movement, they are bound together as parts of a mutual whole.  A race with only men or only women would disappear in a single generation, but men and women together create new generations that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive.  The interaction of the two gives birth to things.

6  Yin yang transform each other  Like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall.  E.g. A seed will sprout from the earth and grow upwards towards the sky - an intrinsically yang movement. Then when it reaches its full height, it will begin to weaken, and eventually will fall back to the earth in decay - an intrinsically yin movement.  Yin always contains the potential for yang, and yang for yin.

7  Yin-yang are balanced  Yin-yang is a dynamic equilibrium.  They arise together they are always equal  If one disappears, the other must disappear as well, leaving emptiness.  This is rarely immediately apparent, though, because yang elements are clear and obvious while yin elements are hidden and subtle.

8  Yin-yang are omnipresent e.g. time/space/ relationship: Chinese place names: 洛阳、淮阴 food :寒凉、滋阴壮阳 medicine : 针灸( acupuncture ) 通则不痛,痛则不通, 阴阳失调 so energy line system rebalanced

9 2. Yin and Yang Corresponding Energies YinYang DarkLight MatterSpirit EarthSky FemaleMale PassiveActive Even Numbers Odd Numbers

10  Can add more to this binary system: winter/summer, death/life, cold/hot,…  So the point is basically there is no distinction between good/bad, etc, numbers inclusive.  All are indispensable pairs in this system of balance.

11 3. Why Lucky and Unlucky numbers?  Western: religion? 7: lucky 13: unlucky  Chinese: 1 ) traditional Chinese philosophy 2 ) words that sound similar (homophones)

12 4. Meaning of Numbers  一( yī ) : unity /initiation/ beginning Daoism : “ One begets two.” father of the children of numbers holds yang/masculine energy. has a thrusting energy that surges forth new growth and potential. e.g. 一心一意( yī xīn yī yì ) 九九归一 (jiǔ jiǔ guī yī )

13  二 ( èr ): duality /germination/harmony mother of numbers even number: feminine/yin energy. “good things come in pairs” (好事成双 háo shì chéng shuāng ) e.g. wedding a pair of red candles/pillows/shoes couplets

14 三( sān ) :  The first offspring from the union of numbers 1 and 2.  number three is forever linked with the sanctity of life, progeny and childbirth.

15  Associated with endings in the Chinese meaning of numbers. (三军、三生: not means “three”)  From three, the family of numbers branches out to create diversity and complexity.  Daoism : Great Triad (Heaven-Mankind-Earth) which can be loosely translated to mean the path from obscurity into manifestation.  Daoism : “ 道生一,一生二,二生三,三生万物, 万物归于道。 ”  Also sounds similar to shēng ( 生, birth or 升, rising )

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17 四 ( sì ) : sounds similar to sǐ (死, death )  Many numbered product lines skip the "4“ or any number chains ending with “4 ”  But it sounds similar to shì: 事( things ) or 世( world , life ) e.g 四四如意 = 事事如意 (shì shì rú yì) : Everything done as wished. 四季发财( sì jì fā cái ) May you be prosperous all four seasons.

18  五 ( wŭ) : associated with the five elements in Chinese philosophy

19  The doctrine of five phases describes two cycles, a generating or creation ( 生, shēng) cycle, also known as "mother-son"  and an overcoming or destruction ( 克 / 剋, kè) cycle, also known as "grandfather- nephew", of interactions between the phases.

20 Generating  Wood feeds Fire;  Fire creates/produces Earth (ash);  Earth bears Metal;  Metal carries Water (e.g H2O is created by reactions catalyzed by metal oxides when molten volcanoes erupt);  Water nourishes Wood.  Other common words for this cycle include "begets", "engenders" and "mothers."

21 Overcoming  Wood parts Earth (such as roots);  Earth absorbs (or muddies) Water;  Water quenches Fire;  Fire melts Metal;  Metal chops Wood. Also:  Wood absorbs Water;  Water rusts Metal;  Metal breaks up Earth;  Earth smothers Fire;  Fire burns Wood.  This cycle might also be called "controls", "restrains" or "fathers".

22 Significance of Wu Xing Theory  feng shui: e.g. architecture  Traditional Chinese medicine 五脏(阴)六腑(阳)  Martial arts: The Five Steps of Taiji  Music/astrology/sensory……

23  Forbidden City : 5 arches/5 gates

24 Folklore: Wu Fu Lin Men (五福临门)

25 Wu Fu Lin Men ( Con’t)

26  Also sounds similar to wǔ (吾) : poetic “I” e.g 吾爱 吾生 wŏ (我): 520=I love you 555= 呜呜呜 

27  六( liù ): harmony/expansion e.g. 六合( liù he ) six cosmic points of directions : 东、西、南、北、上、下  pronounced similar to liú (流, fluid ) e.g. 六六顺( liù liù shùn ) 六六大顺

28  Good/smooth for business. e.g. 666 : one of the luckiest numbers of all AW666: license plate numbered was sold for RMB 270,000  Western: devil’s number?

29 七( qī ) : spiritual or ghostly.  The seventh month : “Ghost Month”.  not commonly associated with luck.  Traditional Chinese Memorial Days : 7*7=49 days 1 st 7: 头七 2 nd 7: 二七 ….7 th 7: 尽七 BUT……

30 Chinese Valentine’s Day  七夕节( qīxījié ) : On July 7 according to Chinese Lunar calendar  Also called The Girls’ Festival (女儿节)  Originated from legendary story “The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid” (牛郎织女,niú láng zhī nǚ )

31 The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid” (牛郎织女)

32 The Story  about the 7th daughter of Emperor of Heaven and an orphaned cowherd.  They were separated by the Emperor.  The 7th daughter was forced to move to the star Vega and the cowherd moved to the star Altair.  They are allowed to meet only once a year on the day of 7th day of 7th lunar month.

33  鹊桥会( què qiáo huì )

34 Example: 鹊桥仙 Fairy Of The Magpie Bridge 秦观 by Qin Guan ( ) 纤云弄巧 Among the beautiful clouds, 飞星传恨 Over the heavenly river, 银汉迢迢暗度 Crosses the weaving maiden. 金风玉露一相逢 A night of rendezvous, 便胜却人间无数 Across the autumn sky. 柔情似水 Surpasses joy on earth. 佳期如梦 Moments of tender love and dream, 忍顾鹊桥归路 So sad to leave the magpie bridge. 两情若是久长时 Eternal love between us two, 又岂在朝朝暮暮 Shall withstand the time apart.

35 Chinese Ceremonies  Girls prepare fruits, melons and incense as offerings to the weaving maiden  Girls throw the five-color ropes on the roof for magpies. Magpies will carry ropes to build the bridge.  Girls pray to acquire high skills in needlecraft, hoping to find satisfactory husbands.  In the evening, people sit outdoors to observe the stars.

36 Ancient Seventh-sister Party

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38  八( bā ) :sounds similar to fā (发 : prosperity or wealth ).  发 is short for 发财 ( fā cái ): get rich  恭喜发财 ( gōngxĭ fācái ): congratulations and get rich.

39  In Chinese New Year it can mean Happy new year! Congratulations and best wishes for a prosperous new year !

40  Also a visual resemblance between two digits, “88” and 囍  The most favoured number in Chinese culture

41 Examples:  In Chengdu : telephone number with all digits being eights was sold for $270,723  In Hangzhou : license plate reading A88888 for RMB 1.12 million (roughly $164,000 USD).  The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing are scheduled to open on 8/8/08 at 8:08:08 pm.

42 More…  phone numbers: Holiday Inn Crown Plaza in Shanghai : Northwest Airlines : China Travel Services

43  九( jiŭ ): the greatest of single-digit numbers  was historically associated with the Emperor of China

44  Number 9 is a homophone of the word for “longlasting” (久, jiǔ )  It signifies friendship, love, and long life. e.g 长久 ( cháng jiǔ ) 长长久久 友谊地久天长( yǒu yì dì jiǔ tiān cháng ) May our friendship last forever.

45 Double-9th Day (重阳节, chóngyángjié )  on the ninth day of the ninth month in Chinese lunar calendar.  The highest odd number, or yang number, appears in double , so literally double yang.  a history of more than 2,000 years.

46 Main Conventions  going on a journey  ascending height ( Height Ascending Festival )  inserting cornel  appreciating chrysanthemum  eating Double-Ninth cake and drinking chrysanthemum wine.

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48  The Chinese government set September 9 in the lunar calendar as "the Elder's Festival" in  Now the Double-Ninth Day has been enlisted as Intangible Cultural Heritage of China.

49 5. Number Combinations e.g 168 : “road of prosperity” or to “be prosperous together”.

50 Fun with Number Combinations  14  518  1314   88 、 886

51 Closing Remarks 1 ) 信则有,不信则无。 2 ) Beauty/Auspiciousness is in the eye of the beholder?

52 Thank You 39 !


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