Crazy Eights

August 5, 2008 2:25 am Last Updated: October 1, 2015 10:58 pm

Lucky number turning bad before Beijing Olympic Games

Some say that good things come to those who wait. In Chinese culture, it is believed that good things come to those with eights.

The number eight in China is deemed to be lucky, since its pronunciation (ba) is similar to that of the Chinese word for prosperity (fa). It is also revered for its perfect symmetry, which lends itself to perfect balance; perfect balance is ideal in Chinese astrology.

But luck seemed to have done an about-face in China, as a series of natural and man-made calamities associated with the number eight have rolled through the country in recent months.

The Math of Tragedies

In a series of severe storms that began on January 25, China experienced its worst winter weather in fifty years. Transportation was disrupted for the thousands of travelers who had planned on celebrating the Chinese New Year with distant family.

On March 14, the Chinese Communist Party began a crackdown on Tibetan Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the monks' freedom of expression was suppressed as the Chinese authorities arrested dozens of demonstrators, restricted access to monasteries, and displayed "disregard for its international commitments to protect fundamental human rights, including religious freedom." The USCIRF condemned the communist regime's practices.

In May, 69,185 Chinese natives were killed, 374,171 injured, and 18,467 missing and later presumed dead after the eastern Sichuan area was hit with an earthquake. The magnitude of the quake was 7.9, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. After the tremor occurred on May 12, the world's focus shifted to China's tragedy and the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.

How does the number 8 apply to these disasters?

January 25 can be written 1/25. By adding the digits in the date, one would find that 1+2+5=8.
The same math can be applied to the digits that belong in March 14 (3/14) and May 12 (5/12), and both yield the same sum: eight. The earthquake on May 12 was also 88 days from the Olympics.

Besides their obvious relevance to China, the three aforementioned events appear to be independent of one another. Yet many have grouped the events together, calling them omens for the Olympics. Because of their connection to the number eight, many have also begun to fear that the number eight is losing its luck.

Around the central Beijing district, posters generated by the Dongchen district propaganda department have appeared advising locals to avoid using the "eight don't-asks." The list includes questions about age, health, work, and relationship status, among other personal inquiries.

As reported by the Cable News Network (CNN), the posters contribute to the Chinese authorities' goal to "clean up" China's image during the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose to begin the festivities on 8/08/08 at 8:08:08 p.m. local time. For the Chinese who have vested their faith in the number eight, the start of the Olympics is supposed to bring prosperity and good luck for the duration of the games. But with the recent omens related to the number, perhaps China shouldn't trust its luck.

Unlucky Mascots

It hasn't just been lucky number eight that has failed to bring the Chinese prosperity. Other lucky charms have also faltered.

To celebrate hoped-for feelings of international friendship coming from the Olympics, China's five Fuwa were unveiled in 2005. The mascots were supposed to be merchandiser-friendly and peaceful.

But recently, the Fuwa have been linked to national disasters, and rumors about the "Curse of the Fuwa" have spread throughout the country via text message, according to Britain's Telegraph.

The Fuwa were created in the likeness of the Olympic torch and four of the nation's favorite animals. Depicted as a fish, a panda, a torch, a Tibetan antelope, and a swallow, the mascots are named Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini, respectively. Together, their names read "Beijing huanying ni," which translates to "Beijing welcomes you."

Each mascot has been associated with a different national crisis. Jingjing the Panda is said to represent the May earthquake, as the panda is native to the Sichuan region.

The controversy of the Olympic torch relay entering Tibet has been linked Huanhuan the torch and Yingying the Tibetan antelope to the police violence in Tibet.

On April 28, 66 people were killed in a train crash in Weifang, "Kite City," in Shandong province. Nini, the swallow, resembles a kite and has thus been linked with the crash.

When 1.6 million people were forced to evacuate their homes in southern China in June, Beibei the fish was blamed for causing the worst floods that the country has experienced in fifty years.

Speculation abounds as to what further the eights will bring to China in the coming weeks.