Why do I buy number 8? – A sequential mixed methods study on auspicious consumption in China

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Yu, Danqing
Major Professor
Daniel Krier
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China is developing rapidly in a capitalistic mode, however, "rationality", as an ethos of capitalism defined by Weber (1958) is not presented as purely in many economic activities in China. Auspicious consumption (AC) appears to be an example for such irrational activities. Auspicious consumption is a type of consumption or practices that are considered to magically bring worldly favorable outcomes. The term "auspicious consumption" was created for this research to study this unique and prevalent but unexplored consumption pattern in China.

The objectives of auspicious consumption are for achieving pragmatic ends through magical means. The examples such as spending a fortune to obtain a license plate with auspicious numbers "88888" and consulting a Fengshui expert before buying a house are very common practices in China. Auspicious consumption is conceptually different than consumption of magic, superstition, paranormal beliefs and folk religion, therefore, it has not been defined and studied sufficiently by these existing theories. An extensive review of literature was performed on a number of theories related to this phenomenon, including theories of sociology of consumption, magic, magic and capitalism, neo-Confucianism, superstition and folk religion. The literature review helped guiding the key questions for this research, and further understanding AC and its place in among the sociological theories.

Due to the lack of theories, in-depth interviews were conducted and analyzed on 26 Chinese consumers and a grounded theory approach was used for the analysis and to address the following research questions: 1) What AC do people practice in contemporary China? 2) What motivates Chinese consumers to engage in AC? Various statistical analyses are then performed on a national survey (secondary) dataset to investigate 3) how popular is AC in mainland China, and verify 4) the determining factors generated from the grounded theory, as well as test 5) its relationships with demographic factors.

The findings from the grounded theory analysis show that AC can be categorized into objects, services and practices; AC consumers are motivated by symbolic factors such as conspicuousness, bandwagon and propriety, as well as psychological factors such as "cheering up", coping with fear and stress that come from uncertainty, and spiritual sustenance. Besides, habit is another motivational factor for AC. The findings from the quantitative secondary data analysis confirm that coping with uncertainty, "cheering up" and belief in magic are motivational factors to AC. In which, coping with uncertainty is the strongest predictor of AC, and the effects of the other two factors are a lot weaker. The quantitative study also shows that consumers engage in customary AC regardless of their beliefs in AC magical effects; the participation in AC in mainland China was 44% in 2010; age, gender, marital status and healthy conditions were related with AC participation; the greater the belief in Daoism and/or Buddhism, the greater the belief in magic magical effects.

Fri May 01 00:00:00 UTC 2020