The Meaning of Numbers in China

Must-know if you live in China!

Learning the basics below can save you a lot of frustration and misunderstanding, not to mention embarrassment. Knowing these facts will also help you understand the symbolism of the historic places in China and some daily-life actions.

As a bonus, under the infographic, you can read some entertaining folk tales explaining the reasons behind the meaning… No one truly knows if any of them are true but they sure are entertaining to read 😉

meaning numbers china

Why calling someone 250 means STUPID?

Here are 2 of the most popular folk tales attempting to explain that…

Tale 1:

A friend of the Emperor was killed. To capture the killer, the Emperor said in public:

“This person was not a friend of mine and I’m glad he is dead. I would like to give 1000 coins reward to the killer.”

After hearing that, 4 people showed up at the palace claiming they have killed this person. The Emperor questioned them but he still wasn’t sure which one was the killer so he told the guards:

“Take these 250 out of here and kill them all!”

Since then, 250 became synonymous with a stupid person, a fool.

Tale 2:

In Ancient China, copper coins had a hole allowing them to be tied on a string so it is easier to carry them. A complete set on a string was 1000 coins. Scholars, in an attempt to be modest, used to call themselves “half of the complete 1000 coins set” = “500 coins”.

Since then, “half of the half-set” = “250 coins” meant an uneducated person, a simpleton. With time, 250 took on the meaning of a “stupid person”.


You already know that 520 means “I love you”… add 1314 and it will mean “forever”

5201314 = I love you forever!

Want to learn more about Chinese Culture while in Beijing? There are plenty of amazing Cultural Classes!

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