How Lucky is 08.08.08?

For many people around the world, today marks a day of special significance. At precisely 8:08pm in Beijing, the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics will officially begin. A record throng of over 9,000 Chinese couples plan to get married at that very moment. The fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, incidentally, is also planning to wed his girlfriend Dee Ocleppo today, but hopefully for them it will be someplace less crowded. And in Las Vegas, Macau, and other gambling meccas, casinos are bracing for the onslaught of people who believe in the luck of eights.

Why so much fuss over the number eight?

Simply put, it’s the luckiest number for the Chinese. The number is pronounced “ba,” which sounds similar to “fa,” the word for prosperity. For a culture deeply rooted in symbology and superstition, the number is believed to boost good fortune. The Bank of China always assigns it trading rooms to the eighth floor of its buildings, and the Jin Mao Tower, China’s tallest skyscraper, is 88 stories high. It goes without saying that houses with the number 8 in their address attract higher prices, and license plates and phone numbers with as many eights as possible are the most sought after in Hong Kong. (Also popular all over the island are $88 prix fixe menus.)

Visually, the number eight is also auspicious in its symmetry–it’s the only number that can be sliced in half, either vertically or horizontally, and still mirror the other half. Turned to the side, the Roman numeral “8” forms the symbol for infinity, so that makes yet another reason why the number is so favored by superstitious brides.

So the arrival of a date like August 8, 2008, should mark a special opportunity for triple good fortune. Yet, there have been recent rumblings of controversy over how lucky the number 8 really is this year. Chinese numerologists have pointed out that three catastrophic events have taken place this year, and all have borne the imprint of 8. On January 25th the biggest snowstorm to hit China in over fifty years struck the Hunan province. The numbers of that date add up to eight (1 + 2 + 5 = 8). Then, on March 14th (3 + 1 + 4 = 8), violent attacks took place in Tibet. Worse of all was the massive earthquake in the Sichuan province that killed hundreds of thousands. It took place on May 12th (5 + 1 + 2 = 8), precisely 88 days before the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Some naysayers are predicting that this time, the number 8 is a harbinger of bad fortune, and that these Olympic games are headed for disaster.

Will the good fortune of the number 8 be vindicated during these times? We’ll be watching the games closely, so stay tuned.

–Kevin

(Photo by °Florian.)