chinese number codes

Chinese Number Codes For Chatting

Reading Time: 2 minutes

China is the largest smartphone market in the world. In 2012, China surpassed the US in terms of smartphone shipments with 26.5 % of smartphone shipments worldwide going to the Middle Kingdom. For more information about this topic please see this Forbes article.

Everywhere you go, especially on the metro or bus, you see Chinese people playing on their phones (usually Angry Birds) or texting. Since 2012, there have been over 1 billion mobile subscribers (meaning people possessing a smartphone) in China – three times more than in the entire USA. Over 150 million of these people have subscribed for 3G access. According to an article published on, “currently 15 percent of Chinese mobile subscriptions are 3G. This is slightly behind the global average of 20 percent, considerably behind developed nations at 48 percent.”

WeChat (Chinese: 微信; pinyin: Wēixìn) is China’s mostly used instant messaging service and has grown tremendously since it was launched in 2011 and has just surpassed its 300 million users.

This high popularity in instant messaging brought about an interesting trend in China: number codes. These are codes consisting of a combination of numbers with different meanings. These codes are being used like LOL, WTF, etc. Maybe you received a text message from a Chinese friend before saying something like “555” or “520” but you thought that was just some random joke or a typo? Nope! These are common Chinese number codes that you definitely need to know or else it could end in some sort of a dilemma…

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Number code introduction

Of course, these numbers are not randomly chosen. Usually, every number has its own meaning. Numbers are used for these codes because their pronunciation is close to the actual Chinese word. Here are some examples:1 (pronounced yao) = 要 to want

  • 1 (pronunced yao) = 要 to want
  • 2 = 爱 to love
  • 3 = 想 to miss or to want

    (Photo credit: e y e / s e e)

  • 4 = 死 to die
  • 5 = 我 I, me
  • 7 = 亲 to kiss
  • ……………………

Here are some actual examples:

  • 514 = 我要死 I want to die
  • 56 = 无聊 bored
  • 5366 = 我想聊聊 I want to chat
  • 282 = 饿不饿 hungry?
  • 555 = 呜呜呜 refers to: the sound of crying

Even though all these numbers share the same or similiar pronunciation the number code for “You” 你 is simply 0. Therefore, one of the most known number codes is:

  • 520 = 我爱你 I love you

This code even lead to a new Valentine’s Day in China which is of course celebrated on May 20th.

If you want to learn more number codes, feel free to check out this youtube video or this website.

Which one is your favorite number code? Have you received or used them before? Do you like the idea of 520? Feel free to share your opinion!

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

No Comments

  1. myhongkonghusband on August 19, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I remember my husband once wrote me in that code, I will ask him about that thing again when he comes back from work, the only one I remember is Cantonese 689 – very often reffered to CYL, head of HK, that’s how many votes made him win and that means… ‘no dick’ sorry for the word! just 7 sounds similar to ‘d-word’ so 689 is missing 7 = no d… 🙂

    • lindalindsch on August 19, 2013 at 11:43 pm

      haha great comment! thanks! any additions to this list are welcome!

      • myhongkonghusband on August 20, 2013 at 1:26 am

        Ok, he said the ‘i love you phrase’ is ‘5201314’ – i love you forever, but you literally can translate it as i love you one life 🙂 he is quite busy now but he said when he has more time he can tell me more of those 🙂

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