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The Chinese Internet is Awash with Life-Changing Koi. Here’s What’s Going On

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China loves koi, and the fish has long been held as a symbol for good fortune. One ancient tale tells the story of a koi who was determined to cross the barrier between Earth and heaven, a waterfall called the “Dragon Gate”. After fighting its way upstream, and battling different obstacles along the way, the koi finally made it, giving birth to the Chinese idiom “鲤鱼跳龙门” — literally, the “koi jumps over the dragon’s gate”, which refers to getting a big break in life.

Well, that phrase could certainly be used to describe Xin Xiaodai, the unlikely winner of Alipay’s “Chinese Koi Giveaway”. On the last day of her national holiday vacation, Xin woke up from a nap and checked her phone to find a barrage of messages from friends and family. She’d won the Chinese Koi grand prize package, a ridiculous sprawling list of free goods from the Chinese tech giant.

Xin Xiaodai laid out on top of a list of prizes she’ll receive

The prize list was broken into nine main categories: Clothing and Shoes, Cosmetics, Food, Spa, Tourist Destinations, Phones, Travel Accommodations, Airline Tickets/Transportation, and Private Flying Lessons (though that last one seems more like a straight-up prize than a category). She got an iPhone X and the latest Samsung Galaxy phone. She got vouchers for food and spa treatments all over the world, and the airline tickets to fly there and claim them. If she ever has trouble getting a ticket, she can always fly there herself after she graduates from her private flying classes.

The over-the-top scale of the prize package generated huge discussion online. Bloggers posted countless reaction videos, with one video offering advice on how to move on with your life after not winning the Chinese Koi Giveaway. But even more ubiquitous were the memes it all generated.

Many of them compared Xin to Yang Chaoyue, a teen idol who sings poorly and became famous on the Produce 101 talent show regardless, and whose image has come to represent luck and good fortune. When in need of a boost of luck, such as before an exam or job interview, it had become common to change your profile picture to a photo of Yang Chaoyue meditating:

yang chaoyue

Understandably, Xin has come to represent similar good fortune:

China koi

But it’s not stopped there, the word “koi” has started being used to refer to all kinds of people whose circumstances could be described as “lucky”.

Model Ming Xi, who fell at the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and subsequently achieved new levels of fame, is pointed to as another “koi”

And from where Alipay is standing, all press is good press. The mobile payment platform holds 53% of the market share for online payment platforms, compared to WeChat Pay’s 40%. It may seem like a considerable lead, but when you consider that Alipay held 70% in 2014, it becomes apparent that the company has stay on its toes. WeChat is part of everyday life for people in China, and opening WeChat to pay for a coffee is a more familiar experience than opening up the Alipay payment app. So for a company facing challenges with consumer connection, what better way to bridge that gap than by giving away boatloads of free stuff?

Xin, keeping humble, doesn’t plan on quitting her job, even after catching her huge break. “In the end, I think that every person is capable of finding their own luck,” she said in an interview with video platform Miaopai. And why does she think she was lucky enough to win the contest? “I think maybe in my past life I did many good deeds.”

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Brianna Leatherwood
    Brianna is an Anthropology student at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. She is currently studying at Ningxia University, focusing on Chinese Language studies. When not hitting the books, she enjoys playing badminton, volleyball or basketball with her friends.

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