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Get lucky, post a Koi Meme!

21st Nov 2019

Get lucky, Post a Koi Meme!

In China Koi have long been associated with good luck and auspicious circumstances. This goes back to a popular legend dating to the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), which you can read more about in our other recent History of Koi blog post. Basically the legend tells the tale of carp that have to swim against a strong current and attempt to pass through a magical gateway at the narrowest point of the Yellow River. Those that succeed gain the favour of the Gods and are transformed into Dragon Koi as a reward! This has resulted in a popular phrase used right up to the current day in which those that are perceived to have been fortunate enough to increase their status and move up on the world, are referred to as “the carp that jumped through the dragons’ gate.”

So the association in China between Koi and good fortune is well established. As with most things in modern life however, this association has morphed and transformed since it met the internet.

Koi Memes

With the advent of the internet and the rise of social media the good luck phenomenon of ‘Chinese Koi’ has gone fully digital! It started with Chinese millennials posting images of Koi on social media sites such as Weibo (China’s answer to Facebook), in the hope that this will help them do well at a job interview, score high in exams, or even help them win their current love interest.

Over time this practice morphed into the habit of posting pictures of people believed to have been lucky or gained great success. Sometimes the images of these lucky people are edited to resemble koi, or other times koi images or themes are added as in the example of a popular animated gif meme shown below.

Yang Chaoyue Koi Meme Gif

This particular meme features a 19 year old contestant on a Chinese talent show similar to the X Factor. Unfortunately Yang’s singing and dancing skills were deemed to be not so impressive. Nonetheless, she still managed to make it all the way through to the finals and eventually finished in 3rd place, which subsequently secured her a place in the pop group Rocket Girls 101. As with Yang, these Koi memes are usually accompanied with (sometimes tongue in cheek) captions such as in Yang’s case ‘Share this Yang Chaoyue image, you can rank in the top 3 without working hard.’

Despite the tongue in cheek messages, these postings are still meant in the spirit of the original Chinese Koi phenomenon – offerings that serve as prayers to the Gods, for good fortune. Once a particular personality has been associated with the Chinese Koi phenomenon (and sufficient memes featuring them have sprung up), these people and celebrities are bestowed by the community of internet users with the title of ‘Chinese Koi’ themselves.

Leonardo DiCaprio Chinese Koi Meme

Other luminaries joining Yang as a Chinese Koi have included Leonardo DiCaprio (after his long awaited Oscar win), and Wei Yingluo, a tough heroine from a popular 2018 Chinese TV drama. The Chinese sociologist has made the observation that these celebrities and personalities basically take on the status (on the internet at least) of part of the modern-day pantheon of Chinese Gods, with netizens (citizens of the internet) ‘praying’ to different Chinese koi for different aims. For instance, posting a Yang Chaoyue meme might be appropriate if you want to do well against rivals at an interview or other form of contest, whereas an offering to Wei Yingluo might be made to triumph over a love rival, or to Leonardo if you want to succeed in a long strived for goal.


Of course another certainty of the internet is that no sooner is something made popular, than someone will come along and figure out how to make money from it. One of the latest ‘carp that jumped through the dragons’ gate’ was not a celebrity but a humble 25 year old computer engineer from Beijing named Ma Huixian, who was recently bestowed with the status of ‘Alipay Chinese Koi.’

Alipay is a Chinese online payment service akin to PayPal, with over 520 million users. The winner of a lucky draw pooled from Alipay’s customers, Ma has been granted a plethora of prizes including cruises in Japan, all expenses paid holidays to such places as the United States, the Maldives and Thailand, vouchers to spend on luxury brands, phones and other tech.

Alipay announced the appointment of their first Chinese Koi thus: “We named [our lucky draw] ‘Chinese koi’ hoping not only that Chinese people would use [our] mobile payments overseas but also to bring good luck to the world.” Since then images of Ma have been shared online by net users hoping to garner good luck.

Singles Day Meme

Singles’ Day

While to us in the West November the 11th means honouring and remembering our war dead, in China it means something very different indeed. Singles’ Day (also known as ‘Double 11’) started out as a novelty student event (and also a clever commercial promotion) celebrating being single. Single students were encouraged to buy themselves something on the Double 11 date (this date was chosen as the 4 ones symbolise single life), as a consolation for, or celebration of, being single. It’s now become the biggest shopping day in the world, with a single 24 hour period surpassing both Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined! This year Singles Day generated the equivalent of £24bn ($31bn)!

On a slightly smaller scale one enterprising premium koi farmer decided to leverage the popularity of the Chinese Koi meme phenomenon and the sales bonanza of Singles Day, by producing a video meme in which she offered a betrothal gift of ‘lucky fish’ to any young woman willing to give their hand in marriage to her son. While her betrothal intentions may well have been genuine, I’m sure it was not lost on this savvy premium koi producer that the hugeness of the Chinese Koi phenomenon has led to a great increase in sales of the much prized fish. In fact according to one article the farmer even let slip that as well as finding a bride for her son, she was also hoping as a result of Singles’ Day to sell 5m yuan worth of fish (that’s over £555k).

Perhaps she’d also create a whole new Chinese Koi in the process.