As "smart phones" become a bigger part of our society, "dumb phones” are slowly fading away. However, text message shortcuts still live on! You know, the ones that drive most English teachers nuts by using 2mro instead of “tomorrow,” sum1 instead of “someone” and b4 instead of “before.” I was also personally guilty of using these kinds of shortcuts back when I had a flip phone. Sending a text message was such a daunting task for me that I would spend forever just trying to type one message. So, imagine being able to replace an entire sentence with just numbers! Sorry, English teachers!


For example, 1314520. Aww, such a sweet message. But, what does it mean? To understand these “Secret Coded Messages,” only a minimal amount of decoding is needed. You just need to read the numbers out loud, a few times if necessary. This is because they are based on the homophonic nature of Chinese Mandarin. Sometimes the sounds are the same, other times they are simply close. However, the basic idea is that each number corresponds with one character. So, what’s the transliteration for 1314520? It’s "forever, I love you".




  • 1314
  • 一生一世
  • yī shēng yī shì
  • lifetime, forever


  • 520
  • 我爱你
  • wŏ ài nĭ
  • I love you




  1. Read the numbers one by one. Each number represents a Chinese character.
  2. Group 1314 together (read it as yī sān yī sì). This sounds a bit like 一生一世 yī shēng yī shì.
  3. Group 520 together (read it as wŭ èr líng). This sounds a bit like 我爱你 wŏ ài nĭ.























As you can see, this is great for passing “love notes” in class! Even if you get caught, your teacher will likely not understand the message. Wait… do students still pass notes these days? Anyways…. Although most of these messages are love notes, there are several that are quite useful and frequently used in daily life.


This system, which we are learning today, is called 爱情数字密码 (ài qíng shù zì mì mă). Literally, this means “love number password.” However, let's go ahead and call it “Secret Coded Messages.” Since zero is a number that I tend to forget whenever I teach the number system in Chinese Mandarin, let’s start with zero and move up from there.


Depending on the person you are going out with, it can sometimes be hard to tell whether he or she really loves you. So, what could be easier than asking him/her 02825 directly?


  • 02825
  • 你爱不爱我?
  • nĭ ài bù ài wŏ ?
  • Do you love me?


Let’s look at another structure: 爱不爱. This is one of the most frequently used question structures in Chinese Mandarin. The grammar consists of “verb not verb.”


The “not” here is often .


For example:



to need, to want


yào bù yào

to need or not to need


wŏ yào bù yào gĕi tā dă gè diàn huà ne ?

Should I give him a call?



to want


xiăng bù xiăng

to want or not to want


nĭ xiăng bù xiăng hé wŏ sī bēn ?

Do you want to elope with me?


No? Not ready for eloping yet? Then maybe you can use 0564335.


  • 0564335
  • 你无聊时想想我
  • nĭ wú liáo shí xiăng xiang wŏ
  • Think of me when you are bored!


I mean, it’s not like you have Chinese homework from your Mandarin class or work to finish. Love knows no timing.


To break this structure down further, the 。。。时 here is equivalent to 。。。的时候, which means “when you are in situation A, do task B.”


So, this sentence is structured as follows: (a situation) 的时候 (action).




  • 你休息的时候给我发短信。
  • nĭ xiū xi de shí hou gĕi wŏ fā duăn xìn 。
  • Text me when you are on your break.


  • 你不喜欢你的工作的时候把你的老板炒了。
  • nĭ bù xĭ huan nĭ de gōng zuò de shí hou bă nĭ de lăo băn chăo le 。
  • When you don't like your job, fire your boss.


Moving onto the number 1.  Let’s have another look at 1314.


The specific structure 一。。。一。。。 is a fascinating topic! We could go to the moon and back just talking about it. However, for the sake of brevity, I will just stick to this one example. 1314 stands for 一生一世, which means “forever” (or “your lifetime”). It is often paired with 520 (我爱你, I love you). So, the entire phrase is 1314520 (I love you, forever). I will tell you though that you should save this one until you are pretty sure the person you are dating is the one!


  • 1314
  • 一生一世
  • yī shēng yī shì
  • forever, lifetime


  • 520
  • 我爱你
  • wŏ ài nĭ
  • I love you


But wait a moment, isn’t “4” an unlucky number? Oh yeah, that is why you could probably also translate this code as 一生一死 (yī shēng yī sĭ), which means “one alive one dead.” Just kidding! I don’t know, sometimes my brain just thinks of some crazy stuff. Speaking of , if you are more of a realist, then you might agree that 爱情不能当饭吃 (ài qíng bù néng dāng fàn chī), or “love doesn't feed you.” However, you hopefully won’t need to use 246!


  • 246
  • 饿死了
  • è sĭ le
  • Starving to death.


Nevertheless, if you do happen to find yourself a significant other who is a great cook, then oh my, don’t forget to say 39.


39 (sān jiŭ, thank you) is actually translated from the English “thank you.” Another common variation for this is “3Q” (which is more often used as internet slang).


Who is the better cook in your relationship? 456.


  • 456
  • 是我啦。
  • shì wŏ la 。
  • It is me.


Oh it’s you? Sweet, could I try some of your cooking because 526?


  • 526
  • 我饿了。
  • wŏ è le 。
  • I'm hungry.


No? 555.


  • 555
  • 呜呜呜
  • wū wū wū
  • crying sound


555 is my favorite one because it is a quick replacement for the crying emoji and the sound is really close to 呜呜呜 (same sound, different tone).


Love isn’t all that pretty though. Even in a great relationship, there can still be some arguments. There might even be some times when you feel like 6120, being that the other person is too emotional to reason with.


  • 6120
  • 懒得理你。
  • lăn dé lĭ nĭ 。
  • It is just not worth it to deal with you.


But hey, don’t let the small downs affect the big ups in a relationship. 70345. I am totally an expert in relationships ( * grins * just kidding).


  • 70345
  • 请你相信我。
  • qĭng nĭ xiāng xìn wŏ 。
  • Please believe me.


Even if the relationship does need to end, at least you have experienced love.


  • 82475
  • 被爱是幸福
  • bèi ài shì xìng fú
  • Being loved is a blessing.


The truth is, being loved is just as amazing as loving somebody. However, when you need to say goodbye, you can always use 88.


88 comes from the English “bye bye.” It is probably one of the most frequently used phrases to end a conversation, unless you are one of those people who just disappears without saying bye (like me).


Sometimes opposites attract, while other times you are attracted to the other person because of common interests. Thus, our last phrase 9494 should come in very handy!


  • 9494
  • 就是就是
  • jiù shì jiù shì
  • Exactly. Exactly.


Chinese Mandarin’s homophonic nature can be scary initially, but it is also beautiful. Without this homophonic nature, these Secret Coded Messages would be impossible. To be sure, speaking will always be my favorite part of learning a language. However, being able to enjoy the "inner beauty" of a language is another big reward.


88 for now! 


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Hero Image by 白士 李 (CC BY 2.0)