China is known to have a superstitious culture, frequently using auspicious colors for luck or choosing specific symbols to promote health or happiness. Now, a suburb of Toronto has passed a policy that will ban the number 4, which is unlucky in Chinese culture, from new street addresses thanks to the neighborhood’s Chinese immigrants.
The councilors of Richmond Hill agreed that no new street addresses will contain the number 4 and are also allowing current residents’ whose address that is currently 4 the ability to add a lettered suffix. The number 4 when pronounced in Mandarin is a homophone for the word ‘death’, which is why it big events in the country rarely fall on dates that include the unlucky number. Just the way the number 13 is often avoided in buildings, the 4th floor in many Chinese buildings is skipped.
According to the Richmond Hill Liberal, the town already avoids using the number 13 in street numbers, setting the precedent for them to adopt similar procedures for number 4. In a council meeting this Monday, Ward 1 Councilor Greg Beros proposed the motion, and was seconded by Ward 3 Councilor Castro Liu, who says he has been on the receiving end of “non-stop calls and emails” about the numbering issue.
One Richmond Hill resident said that with the address of 44, the unfortunate numbering made it difficult to sell their home, sitting on the market for 10 months. “Buyers don’t want to purchase homes with that number,” the person said to the local paper. The motion barely passed, with a narrow margin of 5-4, with those protesting against the change concerned about how it could create confusion and affect emergency responders.
Despite criticism from other councilors, the motion was passed, accommodating those residents who had reservations about their unlucky street addresses. “The issue is about whether we’re going to respect the tradition of the Chinese people,” Carmine Perrelli, a councilor who voted to approve the new ban, said. Mayor Dave Barrow agreed, saying that the small gesture is something that many residents wanted. “If it’s an issue to our residents, then we should see what we can do.”
While many Chinese are extremely cautious of using the number 4, they are particularly fond of the number 8, a symbol of longevity and good luck, which is why the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing began on August 8, 2008, at 8:00pm.