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Quizzes > Chinese, Mandarin > Beginner >

Chinese numbers and some number tips

by Rui Li

This introduction picture is intimidating, I know. Are these really writing for numbers?! Haahaa. They surely are.

You could basically forget about the first row with the complicated writing. I think even Chinese sometimes make mistakes when they try to write those. But why do I put them here? Just want to tell you a little bit background history. In Min Dynasty, the emperor first came up with this idea to avoid tricksters who edit the numbers in a check to cheat money. So these complicated writing numbers are mostly used in accountant, of course sometimes if you write a contract or some official paper that contains numbers, you would have to write these too to avoid problems. Therefore it is a good knowledge to have.

Here are the readings of the numbers from 1 to 10. (The number behinds it indicate tongues.)
一: yī 1
二: èr 2
三: sān 3
四: sì 4
五: wǔ 5
六: liù 6
七: qī 7
八: bā 8
九: jiǔ 9
十: shí 10

And here are other numbers that might give you a clue about how the numbers are formed:
十: shí 10
二十: èr shí 20
三十: 30
四十: 40
五十: 50
六十: 60
七十: 70
八十: 80
九十: 90
一百: yī bǎi 100

十一: shí yī 11
十四: shí sì 14
二十一: 21
二十四: 24

Something fun to know: the number 2 (er) in Beijing dialect is actually a curse to say somebody is stupid.

你很二! (ni3 hen3 er4!) You are very stupid.

I think most Chinese, not only Beijingers would understand this, so be careful when you use it. Heehee

Another few notes about numbers, 四 *(four: si4) is almost the same pronouncation as 死 (si3) which means death, so it is very sensitive. In some cities, the hotels don't have
floor 4, and that is why. In Japan, the same thing, they read number four as "shi" or "yong", and "shi" is the same as in "shi ri" which means "die".

The good numbers are: 六(6)-smooth,luck,八(8)-fortune,九(9)-royal number,十(10)-complete, perfect。

Example as below:

English Chinese, Mandarin Pronounce As
Absolutely perfect 十全十美
shi2 quan2 shi2 mei3

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