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Symbols, superstition and playing the numbers game

(China Daily)

08:23, July 05, 2013

Apples carved with numbers meaning "I love you forever" on sale in a supermarket in Hubei province. (China Daily/Liu Junfeng)

How many roses does it take to show true, everlasting love? For one guy in Guangzhou, it seems several thousand is the answer. On Feb 13 last year, Xiao Fan proposed to 21-year-old university student Yin Mi after giving her a gown made of 9,999 fresh red roses.

Seated in Guangzhou's Chimelong Park, the train of her dress of roses spread behind her, Yin received another single red rose from Xiao Fan, along with a ring and a proposal. He then kissed her on the cheek as cameras flashed and dozens of people looked on.

"Such a lady killer!" one netizen commented after the story circulated online. "Marry him."

The crimson dress captivated many Chinese as it embodied not only affection, but a prayer for everlasting love. Nine is an auspicious Chinese number, being a homonym in Mandarin for "a long time". So you can say that a dress made of 9,999 roses suggests being together for a very long time.

Throughout history, numbers have become more than just symbols of quantity. Some have become associated with either good or bad luck, and few cultures take the symbolic meaning of numbers more seriously than the Chinese.

The organizers of the 2008 Beijing Games, the first Olympiad hosted by China, chose to launch the affair at one of the most auspicious moments for the Chinese: Aug 8, 2008, at 8:08 pm.

Eight, a homonym for "good fortune" in Mandarin, is probably the most desirable number for the Chinese.

In July 2009, according to reports, five men in Beijing were sentenced to up to 16 months in jail for beating up people near a machine issuing new car plates. Their goal: to ensure their ringleader got his hands on a license plate ending in 8888.

In August 2003, Sichuan Airlines placed a winning bid of 2.33 million yuan ($380,000) for the Sichuan telephone number 8888-8888. It remains one of the most expensive phone numbers ever bought. Besides being easy to remember, an airline spokesperson told The Associated Press: "It's a number that will make customers happy when they call."

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