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.