Numbers and Gestures
Posted by: Vandechine (IP Logged)
Date: February 08, 2008 01:29AM
Like many other people from entire world, Chinese people sometimes use their fingers to represent numbers during the conversation for convenient. From 1 to 5, it's easy: one finger means one, two fingers mean two, etc. From 6 to 10? Ah, It's little harder. Can I use two hands? Of course, you can. But it looks a little silly. Here, you can learn how to represent 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 in Chinese way. It will make you seem more "Chinese".
Number 6: fist your hand and put your thumb and little finger out. In this gesture, the thumb means 5 and the little finger means 1. So, this gesture means 5 plus 1, namely 6. Attention, don't point your little finger towards somebody. It's offensive and not polite.
Number 7: put tips of your thumb, index finger and middle finger together with other two fingers fisting. Like the gesture of 6, the thumb means 5, the index finger and middle finger mean 2.
Number 8: fist your hand and put your thumb and index finger out. This gesture has nothing about math. It's about Chinese character. Because it looks like Chinese character "八(ba, 8)".
Number 9: fist your hand, put your index finger out and bend it. Like the gesture of 8, this gesture represents 9, because it looks like Chinese character "九 (jiu, 9)".
Number 10: There are several different ways to represent 10, here are two of them. First, put your two index fingers of both hands together and make a cross. Of course, it has no religious meaning. Just because the cross looks like Chinese character "十(shi, 10)". (Ps: The cross is translated into 十字架(shizijia). It literally means "frame like character ten".) Second, lift your hand with all fingers dividing. And then put the palm out, turn the hand, and put the back of hand out. Math again. One hand with 5 fingers dividing means 5; putting the palm out means the first 5; putting the back of hand out means the second 5. So, the whole gesture means 5 plus 5.
These interesting gestures can not only be used while talking or bargaining, they have another important function: being used in 划拳( huaquan). (Ps: It's a Chinese game which is played while drinking for fun. Losers must drink a cup or several cups of wine as punishment.)
At last, I want to remind readers: they can only be used in front of Chinese. If not, it may lead to a misunderstanding. I can prove it with one example of myself.
Last month, when I was working with an Italian lady, she wanted to ask me about a number.
"What's the number?" She asked.
"Eight thousand." I answered and made a gesture of 8.
"No, eight thousand." I answered again and shook my hand.
"But you put out two fingers!"