數數呈祥——中國人的吉祥數字

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1992 / 10月

文‧蕭容慧 圖‧文建會提供


恭喜恭喜!我說張老爺子,今兒個正逢您八十大壽,又是娶媳婦入門的好日子,讓我數個數兒,為您討個好口彩:恭賀您闔家「一」團和氣、「雙」喜臨門、「三」世同財、「四」季如意、「五」福臨門、「六六」大順、「七」子「八」婿、三多「九」如、「十」全十美。


在台灣高雄市有一組著名的街道,以數字開頭:一心、二聖、三多、四維、五福、六合、七賢、八德、九如、十全。這句句吉祥的街名,聽得人心裡舒坦,住起來也跟著沾光不少。

許多外國遊客不禁讚道:中國人挺有創意,能把數字編派得如此「吉利」!

中國人不但拿數字來「呈祥」,還拿它來罵人:你這「二百五」,做起事「不三不四」,還敢說我「十三點」和「三八」?!

雖然出處不太可考,但可確定的是,數字與中國人的生活息息相關!

淵源來自易經

上古時代,人類以結繩計數,而後才使用所謂的數字和文字。

人們從自然現象和生活經驗中,漸漸認識一件事情變化的徵兆,像古人所謂的「月暈而風,礎潤而雨」,就是一例。生活中難免有不如意之事,於是人們有趨吉避凶之舉;再加上人時有的心理活動和聯想,就逐步形成一套求吉祥、祛邪惡的行為習慣。

「易經」,正是古代一本記錄先民趨吉避凶和占卜經驗的總結之書。在易經堙A數各有其含義:一是太極,二是兩儀,三是三才,四為四象,五是五行,六是六合,七乃七政,八為八卦,九是九書,十為十圖。

我們常說的「三陽開泰」,形容祛盡邪佞,吉祥好運接踵而來,典故就是出自易經。三陽,卦爻之初九、九二、九三,陽氣盛極而陰衰微也。開泰,泰是卦名;乾上坤下,天地交而萬物通。開泰即啟開之意,暗示要交好運囉。

認為「數無吉凶」的國際道家學術基金會董事長李亨利說,數字的意義都是人賦予的,如果鎖定某個數字一定是吉或凶,就是迷信。

然而,不同於西方人對「十三」的敏感,中國人仍自有一套數字哲學,在生活中流傳或驗證。

諧音影響大

台灣省立博物館人類學組組長阮昌銳提出「模擬巫術」的說法,他表示,中國人相信相同的聲音會產生相同的效果,因此「諧音」成為許多所謂吉祥數字的依據。

像廣東人的「八」與「發」音很近,對廣東人就產生意義,但對閩南人卻起不了什麼作用。

台灣人對與「死」音近的「四」多禁忌,但客家人對此卻無動於衷。

民間流行的姓名學與九宮,是根據一個人的姓名筆劃數,來判斷人的個性和命途走勢。日本、歐美也發展出一套算命法,以陽曆西元生日的年、月、日數字相加,最後得出一個數字,再根據它來斷人命運。也有人能以某人偏好的數字,粗略判斷此人的個性。

吉祥數字、幸運數字的風行,與八字中缺金補金、缺水補水以求中和的造命觀念有關。李亨利指出,數字可分為生數(一、二、三、四、五)與成數(六、七、八、九、十)。其中一、六屬水,二、七屬火,三、八屬木,四、九屬金,五、十屬土。若以陰陽來分,一、三、五、七、九屬陽,二、四、六、八、十屬陰。

如果某人八字屬木,須以水來生木,他可選一或六為幸運數字。選那個好呢?如果此人屬陰木,則可選陽水的代號「一」。

神可孤,人不可單

一,數之始也,也有「獨」之意。

台灣神學院宗教學教授董芳苑指出,在台灣,人們較喜歡象徵「雙雙富貴」的雙數,而對一、三、五、七、九等單數較敏感。由於單象徵「孤單」,不為人所喜。人雖喜成雙,神明可以孤單,因此在單數的月份堙A制訂節慶來幫助人過關,從一月一過年、三月三清明寒食、五月五端午、七月七乞巧節到九月九重陽都是。

在喜慶婚壽場合,中國人送紅包只送雙數,如一千二、三千六,由於四的閩南發音與「死」相近,很少人會送尾數是四的禮金。如果親友結婚送個四千四百元(四四,諧音死死),說不定人家不會感激,還會暗罵你觸楣頭、不懂禮數。至於喪事,一般人多送尾數是單數的奠儀,免得禍不單行。

喜事喜雙

在「中國民俗」一書中,婁子匡教授提及,古代結婚時,完聘的聘禮中包括一張禮帖,記載著禮物的明細。寫法頗有講究,如雞鴨寫成「德禽四翼、家鳧四掌」,金鐲則寫「金鐲成雙」,蠟燭寫成「喜燭雙輝」,絕沒有落單的字眼。

問名時雙方把八字送給對方,上書:「乾造(女稱坤造)二十歲六月初八子時建生吉」,其字數一定要湊成雙數,少一字則以「吉」或「大吉」來補足。

作家小民也補充,由於單象徵不圓滿,她北平家鄉每逢過年蒸包子,都會注意是否成雙數,討個好彩頭。

民俗學家莊伯和認為,中國人對三頗有偏好,一打開中文大辭典,與三和三的倍數有關的語辭,洋洋灑灑。其他地方俗語、口語,更不可勝數。

他指出,中國人喜好「三」,原因之一是它代表「多」。「老子」一書中曰:「道生一,一生二,二生三,三生萬物。」從無到有,從有到無限,「三」扮演關鍵角色。

而「淮南子」也提及:祭祀三飯以為禮,表祭三踊以為節。

「在中國人的人生願望堙A以多寓意吉祥,於是很自然產生了『三多』一詞」,莊伯和說,在我國民間流行的圖案堙A「三多」是佛手柑、桃、和石榴三種水果,寓意著「多福、多壽、多男子」。佛家則以「多近善友」、「多閱清香」、「多修不淨觀」來闡釋「三多」。

沒有「四」樓電梯

學者蘇雪林曾為文推測,「四」與「七十二」這兩個數字在中國古代可能都是神秘數字,而且「四」應即大地的象徵符號。

在台灣,四卻不太受人青睞。醫院、旅館通常沒有「四」樓,電梯堛澈鷇s號碼直接由三樓跳到五樓。大概也只有中國人所在的地區,才需要這種沒有「四」的設施。而買賣房地產,公寓大廈的四樓通常價錢也較便宜。

中國人對「五」,一般來說沒有強烈的喜憎。

五福臨門是喜慶場合常見的頌詞,所謂五福是指:壽、富、康寧、攸好德(所好者德)、考終命(能善終)。

此外,五行(金、木、水、火、土)是古人用來歸納自然界繁複現象的綱要;儒教則認為五有「中」的觀念。

堪輿學作家李人奎指出,儒教認為「五」與其「執兩用中」的中庸之道很吻合,而提倡五行思想。五之數,原來是前為二、後為二,中間夾了個中字。「這『中』字有前後兩個輔弼,不偏不倚,所以『五』也就符合了儒教一貫『中』的主張了」,他寫道。

姑且不論此說是否真正可考,五這個數很少人會特別嫌棄。倒是在划台灣酒拳時,五因為出現的概率最大,規定不能喊,而有小小的「禁忌」。

一六八,一路發

「六六大順」又是怎麼來的?中華民俗藝術基金會執行秘書林茂賢認為,可能與擲骰子有關。六是骰子的最大數,來兩個六六可不就贏了?

根據非正式的統計,不是很多人拿「七」來當吉祥數字。根據古籍「玉笑零音」:人之初死,以七日為忌。「做七」是閩南地區喪禮的習俗。自人過世後第一個七天,到第七個七天,各有祭奠儀式。有人因為「七」容易讓人聯想到做七,加上農曆七月是鬼月,而不喜歡它。閩南語堛滿u三七」,講的是與妓女三七分帳的皮條客,可千萬不能隨便亂用。

對「八」的嗜愛,一般認為是始於廣東人。在廣東音中,「八」與「發」相近。而中國北方,也有「若要發,不離八」的說法。

廣東人聚集的香港,可說是最迷信吉祥數字之處。李亨利分析,香港是地狹人稠、競爭極激烈的工商都市,商人對成敗特別敏感,因此凡事要討吉利,像開業或簽合同,若選在帶「八」的日子,就能討個「發」財的彩頭;「九」就象徵順利和長久;「六」嘛則是六六大順。

吉祥數字在八十年代由香港傳入中國大陸的廣東,再由南向北傳播這股熱潮。

中國時報特約撰述劉正鳳在一篇報導中指出,廣州賓館電話的四個尾數是「八一六八」,諧音是「發了又發」;北平隆福大廈的皮鞋店多標以「吉利」價格,最暢銷的鞋是一種標價為「一六八」,象徵「一路發」的皮鞋。商人住飯店,也喜歡住在房號「五一八」、「六八八」、「八一六」的房間,而廣州一家酒店索性提高帶有吉祥數字房間的租金。

台灣大陸數字熱

在股市風光時,台灣日盛證券以新台幣六十萬搶購到尾數是「八八八八」的車牌。孰知股市好景不再,今秋自用小型汽車號牌招標時,「八八八八」與「六六六六」的最高行情只有新台幣五萬五千元。

而在中國大陸,重慶市第一次拍賣電話號碼時,一個「九○○八八八八」的大哥大電話,以人民幣五萬五得標。今年三月在上海舉辦的拍賣中,尾數為「八八八八」的號碼底價是三萬人民幣,最後以四萬六千元被買走;尾數是「二二二二」的號碼,被人以三萬七千元購得,因為它用上海話念起來就是「來來來來」!最高紀錄則是在五月十八日當天(「五一八」,我要發),杭州「九○一六八八」的大哥大電話,賣到人民幣十二萬九千元。

今年八月北平舉行的電話號碼拍賣金,光只一上午,就拍賣了四十八個號碼,總金額達一○四萬元人民幣,是一個普通工人(以月薪二百元算)工作四百多年的薪水。

信不信由你

九,泛指多數或多次,數之極也。古代常以九喻眾多,如「九鼎」、「九州」、「九重」等。

由於九是極數,因此中國人有逢九不吉的說法,尤其對已屆高齡的男性。六十九、七十九歲的人過生日,都算成七十、八十大壽。一般人也相信,男子在廿九歲時也是一個關卡。

當人們把吉利數字當成招財進寶、平安賜福的象徵時,什麼數字都可以解釋得通。一元復始、七世同居,財源滾滾通四海,那句不是好話?

話雖如此,那些六合彩迷、賭馬迷,仍然汲汲遑遑、載欣載奔,燒香拜神地祈福,尋找屬於他們的吉祥數字!

〔圖片說明〕

P.94

年畫「福壽雙全」

P.95

年畫「三陽開泰」

P.95

年畫「一團和氣」

P.95

年畫「五福迎春」

P.95

年畫「百子千孫」

P.96

「八八久」的招牌,顯現店家希望生意能「發」又能長久。(邱瑞金攝)

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近期文章

EN

Every Number an Omen--Chinese Lucky Numbers

Sunny Hsiao /photos courtesy of Council for Cultural Planning and Development /tr. by Phil Newell

Congratulations! Mr. Chang, today is your 80th birthday, and is also a good day to bring a daughter-in-law into the house. Let me calculate for a minute here and get you a good expression. To celebrate: Living in harmony as one group, The coming of two happinesses to your door, The mutual support among three generations, All as you wish for the four seasons, The approach of the five fortunes, Six-six everything goes smoothly, Seven sons and eight sons-in-law, Many things through the nine wishes, and Perfection ten times over.


There is a set of famous streets in Kaohsiung City in Taiwan, which all begin with numbers. They are Yihsin (One Heart), Ersheng (Two Sacreds), Santo (Three Mores), Ssuwei (Four Upholds), Wufu (Five Fortunes), Liuho (Six Realms), Chihsien (Seven Virtues), Pateh (Eight Moral Precepts), Chiuju (Nine Wishes), and Shihchuan (Perfect Ten) Streets. This sequence of auspicious street names gives people a warm feeling when they hear it, and brings more than a little luck to the residents.

Many foreign visitors can't help but exclaim that the Chinese are really creative, and can line numbers up so "auspiciously."

Chinese not only use numbers to appeal for good fortune, they also bring them out to chew people out: "You 250 [fool], you do things neither three nor four [without any order or out of touch], and still you dare to say that I'm 13 points [stupid] and 3-8 [scatterbrained]."

Although it isn't really possible to know where these came from, one thing is for sure: numbers are intimately related to the daily life of Chinese!

Origins in the Book of Changes: In antiquity, people kept tallies by tying knots in ropes, and only employed numbers and words later on.

From natural phenomena and life experience, people gradually came to recognize the signs of change in a particular matter. For example, there was the ancients' saying that "If the moon has a halo it will be windy, and a damp plinth foretells rain." It is inevitable that there will be misfortune in life, so people began to adopt ways to attract the auspicious and expel the malicious. Add to this that people have psychological activity and the ability to link things together in their minds, and a whole set of auspiciousness-attracting and evil-expelling habits took shape.

The I Ching or Book of Changes is a compilation which records the experience of people in ancient times with luck and divination. In the Book of Changes, each number has some significance: one is the tai-chi or "great supreme," two is the "two rituals," three is for the "three powers," four for the "four directions," five is for the "five pathways," six stands for the "six realms," seven for the "seven rules of government," eight means the "eight trigrams," nine is for the "nine chains," and ten is the "ten depictions."

We often say "three yang make good fortune" to describe the hope that misfortune will be held at bay and good luck will follow. It is a saying often used at the New Year and symbolizes a new beginning, and finds its origins in the Book of Changes. Yang is the positive force in the universe, and there is enormous yang and very weak yin (negative force) in the first, second, and third of the ninth trigrams. So the three yang are very positive.

Li Heng-lih, chairman of the International Taoism Scholarly Foundation, who feels that numbers have no connection with fortune good or ill, says that the only significance numbers have is what people ascribe to them. Trying to say that a given number is either auspicious or ominous is mere superstition.

Still, unlike the western sensitivity to the number 13, Chinese have a whole philosophy built up around numbers, which is spread or experienced in real life.

Yuan Chang-rue, head of the Anthropology Section at the Taiwan Provincial Museum, raises the theory of "identity supernaturalism." He states that Chinese people believe that similar sounds can produce similar outcomes, so that "identity of pronunciation" has become the foundation of many allegedly beneficent numbers.

The vast influence of identical pronunciation: For example, in Cantonese the pronunciations of "eight" and "success" are very close, which makes the number significant for Cantonese. But for Fukienese it has no function.

Taiwanese have many taboos around the similarity of the sounds for "four" and "death," but Hakkanese couldn't seem to care less.

The study of names and the nine-boxed-paper, a very widespread belief among ordinary people, involves surmising a person's personality and fate according to the number of strokes of the pen in the three characters of the name. In the West and Japan, a type of fortunetelling has been developed based on adding together the numbers of the year, month, and day of one's birth, and using it to assess the person's fate. Others are able to roughly guess a person's personality from their favorite numbers.

The popularity of auspicious or lucky numbers is related to the idea of the pursuit of harmony in names by, for instance, using the radical or character for "metal" to compensate for apparent lack of "metal" in the person, or using the "water" radical to make up for a deficiency of same. Li Heng-lih points out that numbers can be divided into sheng and cheng types, the former being one through five and the latter being six through ten. In this scheme, one and six are for water; two and seven are for fire; three and eight belong to wood; four and nine signify metal; and five and ten are for earth. If you divide them up by yin and yang, the negative and positive forces, one, three, five, seven, and nine are all yang, and two, four, six, eight, and ten are yin.

If a person's celestial branch or stem as determined by their date and time of birth (the pa-tzu or "eight character horoscope") come under "wood," then it is necessary to add "water" to feed the wood. So one could choose one or six as lucky numbers. Which one would be better? If the person comes under yin wood, then it would be better to choose the number one, which symbolizes both yang and water.

Gods can be alone, but people cannot: One is the number marking the beginning, and also has the meaning of "independent" or "alone."

Tong Fung-wan, a professor of theology at Taiwan Theological Seminary, points out that in Taiwan people prefer even numbers which symbolize "fortune comes in pairs." They are more wary of one, three, five, seven, and nine. Because the character for "odd" in Chinese (tan) also means "alone," people are not very fond of it. But although people like even numbers, the gods can be alone. Thus in odd-numbered months holidays have been stipulated to help people get by, from New Years (first day of the first month on the lunar calendar) and Tomb Sweeping Day (third day of the third month) to Dragon Boat Festival (fifth of the fifth), Chinese Valentine's Day (seventh of the seventh), and Old People's Day (ninth day of the ninth month in the lunar calendar).

At weddings, when Chinese people give "red envelopes" with gifts of cash, they only send even amounts, like 1,200 or 3,600. Because the pronunciation of "four" is close to that of "death" in Taiwanese, if you send 4,400 to the bride and groom, people won't be grateful and might even criticize you behind your back for failing to understand basic manners. At funerals, on the other hand, people usually give offerings with the last digit being odd, so as to avoid ill fortune not coming "alone."

Happiness comes in pairs: In the book Popular Chinese Customs Professor Lou Tzu-kuang notes that when people got married in ancient times, betrothal gifts would include a document recording all the details of the accompanying gifts. The writing style was rather meticulous. Thus, for example, chickens or ducks would be written as "Four wings of poultry." Gold bracelets would be written "Gold bracelets becoming a pair." Candles would be written as "Festive candles with double glow." No place would odd numbers be allowed.

When inquiring into the other's name and the "eight character horoscope" of the other party, it would be written for instance: "The groom [or bride] is in the beginning of the sixth month of his [her] twentieth year, having been born at such-and-such an hour. . ." The number of characters in the Chinese text would always have to add up to an even number; if they were short one then an "auspicious" character would be added.

The writer Hsiao Min adds that because the character for "odd" also means "incomplete," when she was in her old home in Peking, they would always make sure that the number of steamed rolls made for New Year's was even in order to make a good beginning.

Chuang Po-ho, a scholar of folk traditions, argues that Chinese have always been rather inclined to the number three. Just open up a Chinese dictionary and there are sayings using three or multiples thereof sprinkled everywhere. They are even more numerous in local sayings and slang.

He points out that one reason Chinese like three is that it stands for "many." In Lao Tzu it is said that "Tao gave birth to the one, the one gave birth to the two, two gave birth to three, and three gave birth to the ten thousand things." From nothing to something, or something to infinity, "three" plays a critical role.

Huai Nan Tzu points out that in making offerings to the dead, three bowls of rice was considered in accordance with ritual; and in expressing an offering three gestures were appropriate.

"In the hopes of Chinese people in their lives, 'more' is considered to have an auspicious meaning, so the term 'there mores' naturally arose," says Chuang Po-ho. In widespread folk depictions, the "three mores" are the three fruits including the bergamot orange, the peach, and the pomegranate, signifying "more fortune, more years of life, and more sons." Buddhists, on the other hand, describe the three mores as "more closely associating with friends who will be good for you," "more inhaling of mild fragrance from prayer incense," and "more self-cultivation to correct bad habits."

Elevators without fourth floors: The scholar Su Hsueh-lin has written that in ancient China the numbers four and 72 were perhaps both mysterious numbers, and moreover that "four" was a symbol for the great earth.

But in Taiwan four is not especially well looked-upon. Hospitals and hotels normally have no fourth floor, and the numbers in the elevator just skip right from three to five. It's probably only in places where Chinese people live that this type of facility is necessary. Also, the price of an apartment on the fourth floor is usually cheaper.

In general, Chinese assign little good or bad significance to "five."

"May the five fortunes approach your door" is a saying often seen at festive occasions. The five fortunes are long life, wealth, health, an ethical life, and a peaceful death.

Besides this, the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire, earth) provided a framework for people of former times to classify natural phenomena. Confucianism also says that five implies the concept of "the mean."

The writer on geomancy Li Jen-kuei points out that Confucians believe that five is very close to the path of the golden mean of "adopting the middle between two extremes," and also promotes the thought of the "five pathways." As a number, five has two at the front and two behind, with one in the middle. "This middle figure has two assistants on each side, and is unbiased in the middle. Thus five fits in well with the idea of the 'mean' always promoted by Confucian scholars," he has written.

Leaving aside for the moment the question of how accurate this is, few people ever suspect anything bad about the number five. The only exception is that in playing the Taiwan drinking game of guess-fingers, the probability of five coming up is higher than for any other number, so there is a slight "taboo" that rules that one cannot call out this number.

One six eight, on the way to success: Where did "66 everything goes smoothly" come from? Lin Mao-hsien, executive secretary of the Chinese Customs and Handicrafts Foundation, contends that it might have something to do with playing dice. Six is the largest number on a die, so wouldn't one win by coming up with two sixes?

According to informal statistics, not many people take seven to be a lucky number. According to the old text Yu Hsiao Ling Yin, when someone first dies the mourning period should be seven days. "Doing the sevens" is the custom at funerals in Fukienese areas. For the first seven days after someone passes away, to the seventh seven days, there are appropriate rituals for each. Some people, because the number seven can easily bring to mind "doing the sevens," plus the fact that the seventh month of the lunar year is "ghost month," don't like it. In Taiwanese "3-7" refers to the 30-70 division of money between a prostitute and her pimp, so it cannot be lightly employed.

The fondness for "eight" comes, most people would say, from the Cantonese. In Cantonese, eight and "success" are similar in sound. And in North China, there is the saying that "if you want to succeed, don't stray from eight."

Hongkong, where most of the population is Cantonese, is perhaps the place where faith in numbers is strongest. Li Heng-lih analyzes that it is a very crowded, very competitive industrial metropolis. Businessmen are especially obsessed with success or failure, so they have to include auspiciousness in consideration of any affair like opening a factory or signing a contract. If they can choose a day with eight in it, then they have a "successful" beginning. Nine symbolizes smoothness and endurance, while six, as noted, is for "66 everything goes smoothly."

In the 1980's, lucky numbers went from Hongkong into Kwangtung Province in mainland China, as this trend began to spread from south to north.

Liu Cheng-feng, columnist for the China Times, noted in one report that the last four digits of the phone number of the Canton Hotel are 8168, a homophone for "success and yet more success." Most of the shoe stores in the Lungfu Building in Peking use "auspicious" prices on their tags. One of the fastest movers is one whose tag is 168, which symbolizes "the road to success." And when businessmen stay in hotels, they like to stay in rooms 518,688, or 816. One hotel in Canton even has a higher price on rooms with lucky numbers.

Mainland numbers fever in Taiwan: When the stock market was all the rage, the Jih-sheng Securities Company spent NT$600,000 (over US$23,000) to buy the license plate ending in "8888." Now that the stock market is bullish no longer, during bidding for license plates for personal cars this fall, the highest price fetched by "8888" and "6666" was only NT$55,000.

In mainland China, the first time the city of Chungking auctioned off telephone numbers, a mobile phone number of 900-8888 drew a bid of RMB50,000. In the auction held in Shanghai in March of this year, the starting price of numbers ending in 8888 was RMB30,000, and one sold for RMB46,000. A number ending in 2222 was bought for RMB37,000, because in Shanghai dialect it sounds like "come, come, come, come." The record was set on May 18 (the numerical date of which, 5-18, is a homophone for "I will succeed"), when a Hangchow mobile phone number 901-688 was sold for RMB129,000 (over US$25,000).

At the auction of telephone numbers in Peking in August of this year, in just one morning 48 numbers were auctioned off for a total amount of RMB1.04 million. That's about 400 years' salary for the average worker earning about RMB200 a month.

Believe it or not, it's up to you: Nine generally refers to a great majority or large number. In former times people often used nine to say "a great many."

Because nine is an extreme number, Chinese have the saying that it is inauspicious to run across nine. Especially for older men, the 69th and 79th birthdays are celebrated as the 70th and 80th instead. Many people also believe that a young man of 29 is at the decisive point in life.

When people use lucky numbers to symbolize wealth and fortune, or peace and benevolence, any number can be explained in such a way as to make it fit. Aren't "everything starts with one and comes around again," "seven generations living together," and "wealth flowing across the four seas" all pleasing to the ears?

Although that's easy enough for us to say, there are still plenty of people who play the lotteries or play the ponies, running near and far, burning incense to the gods, looking for a lucky number that belongs only to them!

[Picture Caption]

New Year's painting: "Completeness of the two things fortune and longevity."

New Year's painting: "Three yang bring good fortune."

New Year's painting: "Harmonious as one unit."

New Year's painting: "Five fortunes welcome the coming of spring."

New Year's painting: "One hundred sons and one thousand grandsons."

The sign "Eight eight perpetuity" (pa pa-chiu) is a play on the sound of the word eight, meaning that this shop hopes for perpetual success. (photo by Diago Chiu)

 

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