In Chinese culture, the number eight has associations of good fortune: the word for eight, bā in Pinyin, sounds similar to words meaning “wealth” and “prosper” in Cantonese and other Chinese languages.
That’s why you’ll see an unusual number of symbolic eights in the Bay Area, which is home to large Asian and Asian-American populations.
Eight Orchids condominiums (Oakland), 88% sold.
This mixed-use development on the site of a former Howard Johnson’s motel in Oakland calls itself “Chinatown’s happiest community.” The “88% sold” sign has been displayed for many months, and may or may not be strictly accurate. Shortly after the project’s completion, in early 2008 (surely no coincidence), an article in the San Francisco Chronicle explained the Eight Orchids name:
The numeral 8 … was not chosen randomly. To the Chinese, eight is a lucky number that stands for prosperity and good fortune. When you take the numeral and turn it on its side, it becomes the symbol for infinity - forever. Triple it and you’ve got 888 - three times the luck and the last three digits of the price tags on the condos.
Speaking of 888:
888 Brannan (at 8th Street), San Francisco.
This South of Market building houses the Giftcenter and Jewelrymart (yes, that’s how they spell those words). It’s open only to the trade.
Double eight has its own symbolic meaning in Chinese culture. According to Wikipedia, the two digits resemble 囍, “the ‘shuāng xĭ’ (‘double joy’), a popular decorative design.”
88 Kearny St., San Francisco.
88 Kearny is an office building in San Francisco’s Financial District, a short walk from Chinatown. The double eights create a striking logo.
The Kearny and Brannan buildings may not have begun their lives as 88 and 888, respectively. Street addresses are assigned by city or county agencies, but developers and owners sometimes petition to have the numbers changed. You may recall that that’s what Ronald and Nancy Reagan did when they moved to Bel-Air, California, in 1989. Their house number was originally 666 St. Cloud Road, but Nancy Reagan had it changed to 668 because in the New Testament Book of Revelation, 666 is “the number of the Beast.” Of course, 888 would have been even better, but that would have required buying a different house on a different block.