Phone Number of the Beast

A story from Friday’s China Daily:

Lucky phone number not all that lucky
(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-29 08:49

A businessman in Qingdao, Shandong Province, was almost driven mad after he paid more than 10,000 yuan ($1,316) for an “auspicious” phone number, which brought him endless troubles instead of luck and fortune as he had expected.

Last year, the man, surnamed Liu, bought the phone number “66-666-666” from one of his friends. (Many Chinese regard the number six as a sign that everything is going smoothly.) But since then, his life has become a nightmare, as he receives at least 100 calls a day from strangers. Some call to test whether the phone number really exists and some call asking to borrow money, believing “only rich people could offer to pay for such an auspicious number”.

Now Liu hopes he can get rid of the troubles by selling the number to someone else.
(Qingdao Daily)

[DISCUSSION: After five years in China I am increasingly aware of the gaps that separate Western and Chinese culture (or, more precisely, Western and Chinese civilization). To be sure, we are comprehensible to each other, but at the margins – at those odd places which differentiate and distinguish us as cultures – the gaps sometimes appear unbridgeable (at least, to me). This phone number business is a great example. Yes, I was well aware of the Chinese penchant for lucky (phone) numbers, particularly those with 6s and 8s (I happen to own one). That said, there’s a vast difference between knowing something as fact, and actually integrating it into your personal worldview. Factually speaking, I read that China Daily article and had a good laugh because the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the string of 6s was as image of the Beast‘s displeasure (as played by Dave Grohl in the Pick of Destiny) at having his phone number co-opted by a guy in Qingdao (soon followed by thoughts on Ozzy Osborne’s early solo work), even though I know all about 6s and Chinese phone numbers. Compare that to the guy in Qingdao (and, presumably, most Chinese readers of this story) who immediately perceived a status symbol (even the ones familiar with biblical eschatology and/or 80s hair metal). One phone number, two comically different interpretations; culture still matters, and the world is not flat. I’ll be using this example for years.]