A billboard near Xi'an displaying a lucky phone number - photo by Justin Burner
Unfair: This degree of luck monopolization
should be grounds for an antitrust suit.

(photo by Justin Burner)

This billboard, which is (or was) apparently visible from the parking lot at the terracotta army museum (the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the First Emperor of China) near Xi’an, was photographed by Justin Burner. This is just about the luckiest phone number imaginable in China: eight 8’s. For those of you who don’t know, 8 is considered a profoundly lucky number in Chinese culture and is coveted as a good luck charm in numerical designations of all kinds—even in the United States, if you see a vanity license plate with a bunch of 8’s in it, the driver is likely to be Chinese. Wikipedia has a good explanation of Chinese beliefs about numbers here, and this page includes a lot of interesting additional information.

In fact, the influence of cultural beliefs about the power of numbers can be so strong that a study published in the British Medical Journal found that hospital patients of Chinese and Japanese descent were more likely to die on the 4th day of a given month, as the number 4 is associated with death in both Chinese and Japanese culture. (Patients without this ethnocultural background did NOT die in greater numbers on such days, suggesting that phenomena like this are caused by the psychosomatic power of the belief itself.) The study’s findings are disputed, but it’s still interesting evidence of the potential health effects of one’s thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.

Anyway, by the logic of superstition, this should be just about the most successful business in the world, but I suppose even the best luck can be undone by bad management—or by the laziness of an owner who thinks such a lucky number itself is enough to guarantee success.

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