When I teach Introduction to Anthropology I often like to use simple examples to relativise taken-for-granted categories. “Common-sense” examples usually communicate these the best—so I might talk, for example, about what categories of animal constitute food or how daily life is inflected by tiny habits, rumors or superstitions. I often mention, for example, lucky numbers in China—most often used for phone numbers or car license plates that have variations of one, six and eight in them.
I usually also mention the unlucky number four, but have, until yesterday not had a good image to show them. Four (四) is unlucky because its pronunciation—si—is a homonym with the pronunciation for the word for death (死).
Yesterday when we arrived in Chengdu I noticed that the elevator buttons in the hotel in which we are staying, the Chengdu Qixin Da Jiudian (成都七鑫大酒店), have been adjusted so as to not include floors with the number 4 in them. So the 14th, 24th, or 34th floors in this hotel have been replaced with alternative designations—15A, 25A and 35A.
It was a bit dark in the elevator for a good photo, but I managed to take a few that turned out OK. I thought I’d post them here in case someone else finds them useful.