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It is totally absurd, absolutely ludicrous, that buildings should not have a fourth floor.  — Zhou Xiaozheng, Professor of Sociology at Renmin University, Beijing (quoted by Reuters)

The number 13 bothers Americans as much as the number 4 bothers the Chinese. In the U.S., many tall buildings do not have a 13th floor. Or a stall 13. Or a room 13. People get nervous when the 13th in a month falls on a Friday.

Imagine avoiding any addresses or associations with the number 8 because you’re anorexic. Or running away from the number 4 because you’re a golfer. Seems silly, doesn’t it? Yet a homonym supplies the basis for the cultural taboo against fourth floors.

You often see this “four = death” factlet promoted by McFengshui types and real estate agents parading their expertise in feng shui. They may never have heard “four” and “death” pronounced, but they love to pass on this “ancient wisdom.”

Number-avoidance is a form of phobia (anxiety disorder). Phobias are the most common mental illness among women in all age groups, and the secondmost-common mental illness among men older than 25.

Daoist master Bao Tong says the charlatans are manipulating people through a belief in lucky numbers. You think?

… people do not have the power to decide things for themselves, so they let fortune tellers forecast their destiny. They turn to superstition for emotional consolation.  — Zhou Xiaozheng

Cultures often assign “lucky” or “unlucky” qualities to numbers. Become phobic about numbers (or homonyms for numbers) in two or three cultural traditions and you are going to have difficulty finding housing in the modern world.

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