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How Your Phone Number Affects Your Fortune

“Too many nines,” Diep scoffs. “And you think it’s good? It’s not, honey.”  

Diep, a former government cultural official turned fortune teller, looks concerned after calculating the digits of my phone number using a mysterious formula. When we spoke on the phone earlier, she told me she had been in the profession for 28 years; it still gives her a slight heartache whenever she thinks of her career change. Diep was not among those avid officials, who pour all their energy into warning the public against “social evils”, of which fortune telling is one; eventually, she decided to move on. Now, she’s devoted to the symbolism in feng shui, face reading and palmistry, guiding people who are curious about what plans the divine has in store for them.

In Vietnam, where symbolism holds strong sway over many, you probably have come across at least a few phone numbers that contain strings of sixes, sevens, eights or nines. These are among the SIM đẹp – “pretty SIM cards” – that can cost tens of millions of Vietnam dong and are prized by the country’s more superstitious residents, particularly those involved in business and commerce.

Among these precious phone numbers, the most revered are known as SIM vương – “the king of SIM cards” – and each can cost hundreds of thousands of US dollars. In 2010, for instance, successful businessman Dang Minh Duc bid VND1 billion (US$44,800) for the phone number 098.888.8888 in a charity auction held by Viettel, according to VTC News.

Like Chinese, many Vietnamese believe certain numbers are auspicious. However, what makes a phone number “good” or “pretty” depends on different interpretations the owner and the reader has or, more often, merely the owner’s preference.  

In your own phone number, a general rule is that one should seek out the above-mentioned digits – six, seven, eight and nine – while avoiding SIM cards with too many fours, the word for which sounds like “death” in Sino-Vietnamese. In fact, this is how the significance of a number is largely determined: each digit is considered auspicious or inauspicious based on how it is pronounced in Sino-Vietnamese.

For instance, “six” is lục, which sounds similar to lộc, meaning wealth, while “eight” is bát and sounds similar to phát, meaning to increase. Because 68, or lộc phát, literally means “wealth increases”, a phone number ending with 68 is believed to enhance the economic fortune of the owner. In addition, “eight” itself also represents fullness and fortune – due to its similarity to the infinity symbol – so having many eights is a good sign.

At first, Diep didn’t believe that getting a “pretty” phone number could affect a person’s life. Yet after seeing mobile network operators require customers to register, she started to realize the importance of phone numbers for each individual, since many people consult the lunar calendar when selecting important dates such as weddings or even the date and time at which to give birth. Similarly, phone numbers could also have value beyond their numerical presentation. With phone numbers being so easy to change, Diep decided it was time to learn the logic behind phone number creation.

After realizing fortune telling was her true calling, Diep reached out to a teacher to learn how to evaluate phone numbers. Along with reading cards and practicing feng shui, Diep believed the skill would allow her to better serve the people.

“I have done readings for many people,” Diep tells me. “They all told me that their lives improved because of my help.”

She continues: “Once, there was a businessman who invited me to his house to examine its feng shui. He was in a difficult time. The house was very nice, you know. I looked at it and immediately knew [the house] was an expert’s piece of work. I kept searching and searching for something wrong but found nothing. Then I casually asked about his phone number.”

Sure enough, it was the businessman’s digits that mucked up his fortune.

Trời ơi, do you know what kind of phone number he has?” says Diep. “Mười nghề không thành [10 jobs, no success]. It was auctioned off on television for more than VND800-900 million. You know those numbers that have all eights and nines? That [phone number] did signify his wealth, but how can he find success with such a number?”

Though Diep was reluctant to tell me the exact phone number, she happily identified it as the cause of his troubles.

“That man has two other numbers: one is vinh hoa phú quý [wealth and honor], the other is tiến tới như ý [make progress as one wishes],” she tells me. “I told him he must stop discussing anything business-related over the phone with the other number.”

Now the conversation turns back to my own phone number.

“Yours. Look at it,” she says. “It’s a number of health recovery. You’re just too young to recover from anything.” Diep’s ultimate assessment was that it’s time to change my digits.

As a proud fortune teller, Diep is more than eager to invite her customers to take pictures of the books she has been collecting for years. Even experts have their cheat sheets: while Diep was busy admonishing me for my mediocre phone number, she also showed me a paper containing the meanings of 80 numbers. The final results of adding, dividing and multiplying the digits of a phone number were laid out across the page, as was the formula itself.

At Diep’s request, I promised I wouldn’t share the list with anyone. Before I even had the chance to ask, Diep was quick to admit she didn’t know why the formula so often comes back to the number 80; her teacher hadn’t covered that point, and she herself concluded she didn’t have to know everything. Despite her expertise in feng shui, the woman finds reading phone numbers to be more or less a side gig.

Still, Diep claims that its benefits are tangible. Many of her clients, she says, have returned to tell her the new phone numbers she chose for them had dramatically enhanced their lives. Even government officials have come to her for help, Diep claims, though she wouldn’t say whom.

Later that afternoon, I got in touch with another expert who goes by Thi. As it turns out I, too, can become a phone number expert: Thi teaches a class on the subject. Though I decline, she’s still willing to show me the basics.

Unlike Diep, whose reading focuses solely on the phone numbers, Thi’s variety of phone number analysis delves into the connection between a person’s digits and a philosophy of harmony. The fortune teller describes her method as I-ching-based and claims her services are in demand both within Vietnam and abroad. I-Ching is an ancient Chinese book of divination that embraces harmony despite change.

According to Thi, some numbers form a better match with one’s birthdate and are therefore considered “more beneficial”, although numbers by themselves are neither good nor bad. However, Thi still prefers the relatively old 10-digit phone numbers over the newer, longer ones, as the number 10 traditionally signifies fullness and fortune.

Thi’s methodology is similar to those we can easily consult on the Internet. A quick Google search for “SIM đẹp” is all it takes to find numerous websites offering to sell you the perfect phone number, complete with a brief explanation, free of charge, though obviously without the expertise of phone number fortune tellers like Diep and Thi.

While it may sound bizarre, choosing the correct phone number is important, especially for businesspeople. Duc, the owner of 098.888.8888, shared with VTC that he bid for the phone number because the auction was a means for him to do charity work. Yet he, too, believed a successful, respected businessperson’s status could be enhanced by a "good" phone number.

Both Diep and Thi also tell me that their clientele includes people of various ages, genders and professions. According to the fortune tellers, more than a few powerful individuals have reached out for their suggestions on family, relationship and business issues.

Although it seems innocuous to consult the expertise of a feng shui expert once in a while, a curious customer can become addicted, as a fortune teller’s job somewhat resembles a therapist's. At the end of the day, however, a fortune teller would conclude: đức năng thắng số - virtue could win fate.

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