Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Folklore, Facts & Romance of 9

Numbers like words carry a great deal of significance for the cultures that use them. Some words and phrases have special usage and are elicited at key times. These ‘sacred’ utterings  - think of prayers or chants, for example - are believed to have select divine powers.
Same holds true for numbers.

This came to my attention when recently I learned about a dress made of 9999 red roses. The story, which first appeared in the UK’s Daily Mail (written by Sadie Whitelocks) is about the romance of Valentine’s Day.
It begins:
Most women would be content with a bouquet of flowers on Valentine's Day.
But one man in China requested 9,999 red roses before asking for his girlfriend's hand in marriage.
And realising his partner's penchant for fashion, Xiao Fan had each blossom carefully stitched together to form a sweeping, floral bridal gown.

Most likely he proposed to her because Valentine’s Day is designated as the day to celebrate the romantic motif/theme of true love that is a universal belief.

He probably chose to use 9,999 red roses because the number 9 is a very special number in his (and his now-fiancee’s) native Chinese culture.

Here’s some fact and folklore about the number 9 in Chinese culture that make it easy to understand why he chose to propose with a gift that was centered around the number 9:
·         In the traditional culture of Chinese nation, the number 9 is the biggest of the odd numbers as well as the biggest of the single digits (think 0-9). Because it is the biggest and the last of the single digits, it is called the number of heaven.
·         It became a sacred number that was connected to the emperors. The size of the emperors’ palaces and buildings were supposedly based on the unit 9. The gates of the Forbidden City and the imperial gardens are decorated with the nine spikes. In each gate, nine spikes are used in vertical and nine in horizontal, altogether they are 81 spikes.
·         As a numeral, 9 was both definite number and imaginary number in ancient China. As the imaginary number, it means “many” and often more than nine.
·         Nine (pinyin) is considered a good number in Chinese culture because it sounds the same as the word "longlasting" (pinyin).
·         There are nine forms of Chinese dragons.
Here's a quick look at the number in other cultures:
·         Greek mythology has nine muses (Callioe, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Plyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia and Urania.
·        The Japanese consider 9 to be unlucky because it sounds similar to the Japanese word for "pain" or "distress" (kunrei).
·        Traditional enemies of Ancient Egypt were represented by the term nine bows.
·        Written in 13th Century Italy, Dante's Divine Comedy, references nine circles of hell.

To read the rest of this festive story, check out the Daily Mail.

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