Nine is Enough

I had nine goldfish in my pond.  In Cantonese ‘nine’ 九 sounds like ‘enough’ 夠 so you would often see Chinese paintings with nine goldfish on them.   Fish 魚 sounds the same as 如 meaning ‘just so’, so ‘nine fish’ has the connotation of ‘all (enough) things being just as you wish’.  Another interpretation is ‘nine’ 九 sounds the same as 久 (a long time/forever) and  ‘fish’ 魚  sounds like 餘 – excess (left over) so ‘nine fish’ has the connotation of ‘always having more than enough’.

Many Chinese words share the same sound.  In Putonghua, (Mandarin), there are just over four hundred sounds but more than fifty thousand characters.  So context is vital in understanding spoken Chinese as one sound may have many meanings.

Of my nine goldfish, one disappeared.  It was Barny, the friendliest one.  He used to be the first to come up to greet me when I visit.  I think he was taken by a bird.  So I was left with eight.  Eight 八 is alright, it rhymes with 發 ,as in 發財 – to make a fortune.  Eight is a lucky number to the Chinese.

Then there were seven – one fell ill and was found floating one morning.  Seven 七 will do; goes with 得 (can do) in Cantonese.

Now there are six – one was caught in the fold of the pond liner and I didn’t find it in time.  Six 六 is good; sounds like 祿 in Cantonese, symbol of wealth.

If one more fish goes I will have to buy more.  Five 五 has a negative connotation and four 四 is even worse; sounds like ‘death’ 死。In fact I think I’ll walk up to the aquarium and buy another three fish today (they’re three for $10).  That’ll bring their numbers back to nine; that would be enough.

About Mary Tang

An urban orchardist everyday, a volunteer regularly, a poet sometimes and a blogger since March 2015. I travel when I can. Food is a constant.
This entry was posted in Chinese Language, Diary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Nine is Enough

  1. Cynthia says:

    Having read this, I am making it a priority tomorrow to get more fish. I have the dreaded 4. Thanks Mary! Fun post

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mattb325 says:

    Many, many years ago, I was trying to sell an investment unit in the inner city: I learnt the hard way that Unit 4, on street number 49 (written 4/49…”double death forever”) was effectively ‘cursed’ which effectively removed half of the potential buyers. Of course, when I bought it, I had no idea!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mary Tang says:

      So sorry to hear but yes, the number superstition is strong. I tried to defy it by buying Unit 40 once and it took me YEARS to get rid of it; people didn’t even want to rent it. Needless to say it was a horrific financial loss.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant logic Mary. Just imagine what would happen in the time between reaching five and acquiring the others.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. robert okaji says:

    In reply to the question “what would you revise in your lifetime if you had the opportunity,” I said, without hesitation, “Learn Chinese.” The characters fascinate me, and I would never, ever, run out of material.

    Liked by 1 person

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