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What does number “九” mean to Chinese people?

nine in chinese, chinese number, learning chinese, chinese culture

Sept. 9, 2009, a once-in-a-century lucky day for Chinese people, is an ideal day for a wedding. The number "九 (jiǔ)" that appears three times on this date stands for lasting love, as it sounds similar to "爱你久久久 (ài nǐ jiǔ jiǔ jiǔ)", literally means "love you forever" in Chinese.

2009年9月9日,对于中国人来说,是百年一遇的吉祥的日子,至少,是最适合结婚的日子。这个日期中有三个数字"九 (jiǔ)",象征着爱情天长地久,因为它的谐音就像"爱你久久久"。

 

The number "九 (jiǔ)" has long been admired by Chinese people. "九 (jiǔ)" is the biggest cardinal number and is pronounced the same to the "久 (jiǔ)" from Chinese word "长久(cháng jiǔ)", which makes it mean auspiciousness, safety and smoothness in traditional Chinese culture. Ninth day of September in the Chinese lunar calendar, known as the Double Ninth Festival (重阳节-chóng yáng jié) in China, which has two "九 (jiǔ)" in that date with an uncommon meaning, and that is why this day is regarded as the festival for recalling ancestors and honoring the elders. Since "九 (jiǔ)" possesses such special meanings, it is expected to bring good luck to people both in lunar calendar and solar calendar. Chinese people are fond of such lucky dates, and they pick this kind of day to hold ceremonies, feasts or get married as mentioned above.

中国人对数字"九"的喜爱由来已久。"九"是最大的基数,而且又和"长久"的"久"谐音,所以,在中国的传统里面,只要遇到"九",就是吉祥、平安和顺利。农历九月初九是重阳节,两个"九"重叠,意义非凡,所以这一天是中国人纪念祖宗和尊敬老人的节日。既然数字"九"的意义那么特别,不管是农历还是阳历,一定会给人们带来好运。人们喜爱这样吉祥的日子,就选择在这种日子举办庆典、宴会,或者像开头说的,登记结婚。

 

"九 (jiǔ)" is not only a figure, but also stands for one kind of philosophy thinking. In Chinese Yin-Yang and Five Elements (阴阳五行-yīn yáng wǔ xíng. The ancient Chinese Yin-Yang scholars believed that there are two natural, complementary and contradictory forces in our universe. These scholars also believed that our universe consisted of five basic elements, which are metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Everything, including humans in the universe must have a relationship with these five elements.), "九 (jiǔ)" is the biggest yang number which symbolizes "heaven (天-tiān)". According to the Chinese legend, "天 (tiān)" consists of nine regions and the ninth one is the highest one. The word "九州 (jiǔ zhōu)", as you might have heard of before, is the title for ancient China. There are many Chinese idioms containing the character "九 (jiǔ)", and you can sense the meaning in these idioms. For example:

九霄云外 (jiǔ xiāo yún wài, be flung to the four winds; to loose ones way)

九九归一 (jiǔ jiǔ guī yī, when all is said and done in the end)

九五之尊 (jiǔ wǔ zhī zūn;the imperial throne)

九泉之下 (jiǔ quán zhī xià, down in the Nine Springs; after death)

九死一生 (jiǔ sǐ yī shēng, nine deaths, one life; a hairbreadth escape/a slim chance of surviving)

九牛一毛 (jiǔ niú yī máo, nine oxen one hair; a drop in the bucket [ocean])

一言九鼎 (yī yán jiǔ dǐng, one word is as heavy as nine tripods/ every word carries weight)

十拿九稳 (shí ná jiǔ wěn, almost nine-tenths certain/be quite certain of)

"九"不仅仅是一个数字,它也代表了一种哲学思想。阴阳五行里面,"九"是最大的阳数,象征着天。而中国的传说里面,天有九层,"九层天"就是最高的地方。你也许听说过"九州"这个词,它就是古代中国的名字。以下是一些含有"九"的成语,通过这些成语,你可以体会"九"这个数字在汉语里面的意义。九霄云外,九九归一,九五之尊,九泉之下,九死一生,九牛一毛,一言九鼎,十拿九稳……

 

Nowadays, the most admired number for modern Chinese people must be "八 (bā)". However, ancient Chinese people showed no less adoration to the number "九 (jiǔ)".

现代中国人最崇拜的数字毫无疑问是"八"。不过在古代,人们对数字"九"的崇拜丝毫不亚于现代人对数字"八"的崇拜。

2016-06-22

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