Chinese Number Meanings and Symbolism
This page on Chinese meaning of numbers comes from a question I got from a reader. He accurately observed there are a whole slew of different methods to determine number meanings.
Numbers demand to be observed through a myriad of viewfinders. I just love them as oracles because they are so painfully simplistic yet vast in complexity (it's that duality thing that really sets me on the jazz about numbers).
But, numbers themselves are not the ruler of our wisdom. We've got to measure number meanings in unique, innovative ways in order to capture the magic they hold.
Taking that same thoughtful approach, I've written this summary on the Chinese meaning of numbers to offer a fresh perspective into numeric meanings. I hope you enjoy these thoughts:
Right out of the gate, it's good to recognize the energetic polarity between odd and even numbers in the immensely keen Chinese philosophical mind.
If we bear this distinction in our thoughts, we've got a head start in our Chinese meaning of numbers and interpretations.
Now here is a list of Chinese Meaning of Numbers to broaden your perspectives of the potential inherent in numerology:
Have you ever submerged yourself in sensory deprivation? Give it a try sometime and you'll touch on the expanse of number zero. Zeros are tricky because they are at once everything and nothing. They mark the void, and so therefore their potential in infinite. Because zero represent no-thingness, they have room to express the eternal. Zero is limitless. Zero is the Tao. Zero is inception; that open indeterminate space that is, but cannot be identified.
The Tao puts it best: "One begets two" in this little snippet the whole existence of numbers comes marching into our awareness. We can have no more in sequence if we do not first begin with number one. And so, one, in the Chinese meaning of numbers deals with initiation, beginning and conception (zero is inceptive, the precursor to conceiving the numerical lineage.). It's prime, so we know number one holds yang/masculine energy. It's an auspicious number in the Chinese mind. One has a thrusting energy that surges forth new growth and potential. One corresponds with the Chinese zodiac symbol of the Rat. The energy of one rules over the Northern direction in Feng Shui practices.
We've met the father of the children of numbers (number one), and number two is the mother of the numeric empire. She is an even number, so we see feminine/yin energy. She represent balance and the passage of time and so her symbolic implication is legion. In fact, we could say the entire Chinese system of numerology is structured around the number two as we see in Taoist thought, the cosmos is comprised of two forces (yin and yang). But two can be elusive because she is the number of duality. But, from duality comes mitosis (cell division ultimately leading to individuality). Two corresponds with the Chinese zodiac symbol of the Ox, and governs North/Northeast directions in Feng Shui practices.
The first offspring from the union of numbers 1 and 2, number three (san) is forever linked with the sanctity of life, progeny and childbirth. Ironically, three is also associated with endings in the Chinese meaning of numbers. From three, the family of numbers branches out to create diversity and complexity. The Tao tells us of the Great Triad (Heaven-Mankind-Earth) which can be loosely translated to mean the path from obscurity into manifestation. I think this tact is why threes are so pivotal both to the Chinese way of thought and otherwise. Three is the first ripple of metamorphosis . The introduction of a third aspect or ingredient changes the face of energetic lineage (both in numerical and general sense) entirely. The Chinese Tiger is the Chinese zodiac symbol for number three, and East/Northeast is the designated direction in Feng Shui.
I get the feeling of guardianship, structure and grounded-ness in the collective of Chinese meaning of numbers. Indeed, number four is symbolic of Earth to Chinese philosophy and the square (with its four points) is the Chinese symbol for earth. It is also connected with the four cardinal points who are represented in China by four spiritually gifted guardians: The Dragon, Unicorn, Kylin, and Phoenix. They guard the cosmic order of things, and insure stability is maintained in the universe. Taking that concept of mitosis (touched on the number Two entry), we see further division of individuality here, and a settling into the knowledge of how things work. This is an extension of that feeling of security. The number four augurs a concrete sense of things. We begin to find our home in the energy of four. The Chinese zodiac symbol for number four is the Rabbit, and east is its direction in Feng Shui.
Five is a huge symbol for good luck among the Chinese meaning of numbers line-up. And so, we see tons of associations with number five in Chinese myth, philosophy and lore. This lucky number earns its status partly from being a conjugation of the number two (yin) and three(yang). These forces combined together bring out some intense associations: The 5 elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) 5 Chinese grains (soybean, wheat, rice, millet, hemp), 5 sacred mountains (TaiShan the Peaceful, HuaShan the Splendid, SonShan the Lofty, HenShan the Balancing, and HengShan the Permanent). We can see from these lists the number five gives a feel of fundamentality - it encompasses a unique mix of elements that strike a cosmic balance. When things are done in the rhythm of fives then the outcome is blessed . A great practice to familiarize ourselves with the Chinese number five is to adopt the founding five Chinese blessings: Wealth, Happiness, Longevity, Luck and Prosperity. The Chinese zodiac symbol for number five is the chinese Dragon and its corresponding direction in Feng Shui is East/Southeast.
The Chinese meaning of numbers takes on a cosmic glow with the number six. To the Chinese way of thought six represents longevity, expansiveness and celestial power. We see this in Chinese designation of the six cosmic points of direction with esoteric directions of "above" and "below" making six points of philosophical concentration. That theme of expansion and metaphysical insight is repeated in the Chinese observation of mankind's 5 senses, with its six sense extending out into etheric understanding. Six also holds the quality of time (or timelessness in terms of space). Both night and day are segregated into six sections in the Chinese calculations of daily time. So when we contemplate the meaning of number six in our lives we are contemplating the perennial mysteries of life contained in celestial power, cosmic focus and the cyclical nature of time. The Snake is the Chinese zodiac symbol for number six, and South/Southeast is its direction in Feng Shui practices.
Seven is the number of a perfectly completed cycle, as each phase of the moon lasts for seven days (the four phases of the moon form a complete cycle). This may be why so many ceremonies and festivals in China are celebrated on the seventh day - to seal the perfection of the occasion and to commemorate the intention of the event. The theme of time cycles is repeated when we see Chinese philosophy deems the number seven as a symbol of woman-ness (also connected with feminine moon cycles). The idea of perfect timing and the ordering of nature is expressed with the numeric union of the 4 (symbolic of Earth in Chinese philosophy) and 3 ( symbolic of heavenly attribute). Number seven tells us that to everything there is a larger, grander, more divine construct that sustains life. Perhaps that construct is comprised of the energies of the seven Chinese gods of prosperity: Ebisu the god of business, Daikoku the god of wealth, Bishamonten the god of war, Benzaiten the goddess of the arts, Hotei the god of health, Jurojin god of wisdom, and Fukurokuju god of happiness. The Chinese zodiac symbol for seven is the Horse, and South is this number's Feng Shui coordinate.
The number eight in context of Chinese meaning of numbers represents a feeling of inclusion. Eights are a product of all the numbers that have preceded it, all bundled up in a tight, revolutionary package of balance. This kind of supernatural balance is personified by the eight Xian (Chinese term for spiritually evolved, enlightened, or immortal). Legend states these eight immortals were first humans who overcame the worldly challenges and confines to evolve into spiritual advanced beings. I rather think that's what the path of eight does. The Chinese deem number eight as a number of initiations and spiritual ascension because eights represent the forces within the world of phenomenon. To the Chinese mind, number eight has that "anything is possible" feel to it. The Sheep is the Chinese zodiac symbol, and South/Southwest is the Feng Shui coordinate for number eight .
If we consider each of these initial numbers as a pathway into ever increasing complexity and higher knowledge, the nine will be our precipice of our understanding. At the apex of our upward count stands the nine, and in Chinese meaning of numbers it is the jackpot of celestial forces. Interestingly, in Feng Shui, nine sections are cordoned off by agricultural land owners; eight sections of land are cultivated, but the ninth section (in the center of the agricultural blueprint) is classified as "god's acre" and is devoted to honor the supreme and sacred. The Chinese meaning of numbers nine is completion and satisfaction. It represents a high standard of celestial congruence. When we reach the philosophical height of number nine we have ascended in esoteric understanding and obtained a cosmic satisfaction. The Chinese zodiac symbol for number nine is the Monkey and its Feng Shui direction is West/Southwest.
Along with the correspondences I've mentioned for each number, many Chinese meaning of numbers come from the feel or sound of the word. For example, the Chinese word for eight is similar to their word meaning "wealth" so eight have a tendency to hold meanings of inclusion and abundance to the Chinese mind.
Further, if you continue your study of this culture's perspective of numbers (and you should, because this list of summaries is painfully brief), you're going to learn certain numbers are considered "luck" (auspicious) and other considered "unlucky" (inauspicious). As much as I respect Chinese wisdom (and I do, I do, I do), I couldn't bring myself to go into the realm of "this or that." I'm going to leave that up to you.
I believe luck is what we make of it, and that auspiciousness is in the eye of the beholder. I suggest you make your own conclusions about which numbers mean what to your way of thought.
In closing, I hope you've enjoyed this page on the Chinese meaning of numbers. Here are a few other links to pages on this site that may also interest you:
If number meanings and numerology are your thing, take a look at these other information-packed pages on this site about numbers:
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happing to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive it! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!