We’re obsessed with homonyms, where words sound like other words, and nowhere is this more clear than in the numerology of Hong Kong. Probably the most famous is the unlucky number four. The pronunciation of four in both Mandarin and Cantonese is homonymous with the word ‘death’ (死). This means that the number four is considered one of the unluckiest numbers, and you’ll find that in many older buildings, all floors with the number four in them have been skipped. Hongkongers go to great lengths to avoid the number four, whether that be in never giving gifts in fours, or preferring phone numbers with as few instances of the unlucky digit as possible.
In contrast, the numbers nine and eight are considered extremely lucky. Again, homonyms are in play as the pronunciation of nine is the same as ‘everlasting; (久)’, and eight is similar in sound to ‘making a fortune’ (發). ‘88’ also visually resembles the Chinese character ‘囍’, meaning happiness. This means people will often choose to incorporate these numbers in their life, with flats with an eight in their address selling for higher prices. With the connotation of ‘everlasting’, proposals often include a gift of 99 roses to their partners. Many international flight routes to and from Hong Kong have eights in their flight number, with the KLM route being KL888.