Tag Archives: numbers

4 is the loneliest number.

When we first investigated the possibility of living in Taiwan, I heard from my mother and several others about the virtues of Taiwan. One of them was that Taiwan had preserved Chinese tradition and culture better than China itself. I have seen a lot more signs of religious and traditional beliefs here, from both individuals as much as institutions. For example, every Monday, many businesses bring out onto the sidewalk a metal container where they burn yellow paper, which symbolizes money in the afterlife. The metal container is accompanied by a small table of offerings to the ancestors, which invariably contains oranges and some products that would be considered good presents in Taiwan, like Coke and Lays potato chips. Small shrines and temples to Buddhist and other deities are everywhere — smaller ones can be found inside people’s living rooms and kitchens, and bigger ones sandwiched between clothing shops, and occupying prime spaces on large street corners. It’s very much a part of modern day Taiwan.

One sign of a strong culture could be a strict adherence to traditional taboos, in which my mother has indoctrinated me thoroughly. For example, don’t send old people clocks as a present — the Chinese character for clocks, 钟 (zhong1), sounds the same as another character, 终, meaning final or end, so it sounds like you’re cursing them to die. Also, don’t stick your chopsticks vertically in your rice bowl; that’s how they prepare a bowl of food for the dead (maybe because it looks like incense sticks that way?), so it’s a bad omen. Do you see a trend here? And definitely don’t give a couple an umbrella as a present, because the umbrella (伞, san3) is pronounced very similarly to 散, the character which can mean to split up.

Continue reading 4 is the loneliest number.