Retweeting Koi-an Internet Superstition for Reeling in Good Luck

6 min read 

These days, the Chinese are getting ever more superstitious, what with all the unique customs, habits, and efforts spent on reeling in good luck. Recently, a firey craze over koi (more specifically nishikigoi, a Japanese term for carp), a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture, has swarmed the Internet.

We see countless posts on the Twitter-like platform Weibo that more or less convey the same message, “retweet this koi (usually some form of picture or symbol that represents good luck), and good fortune will come to you in the upcoming week!” Whether it’s about one’s own career, love life, or family, the simple action of retweeting a short message or an image, somehow gives people a sense of comfort and blessing of good luck.

Koi

However, I guess I’m still the skeptical kind and not a true believer. Because if everybody online retweets the same post, the powers of the blessing will likely be diminished considerably.

A few weeks ago, Alipay launched a lucky draw campaign on Weibo, asking participants to retweet a picture of a Chinese koi. The campaign gathered over 3 million retweets, and an ordinary 26-year old girl became the one and only lucky winner, who won a variety of prizes worth over half a million yuan in total, including free trips to over 40 countries and luxurious hotel bookings. One of the most valuable prizes is a two-month flight training session granted by the General Chennault Flying Tiger Academy, which is worth around 200,000 yuan.

Xin Xiaodai, the lucky winner

Then Xin Xiaodai, the winner of the contest, posted on Weibo, “Does this mean that I won’t have to work anymore for the rest of my life?” She has since garnered over one million followers on Weibo, all because of the good luck she’s received from winning.

It reminded me of a story featured in Business Insider where 20 lottery winners lost every penny of the money they had won. Some became drug addicts, while others got divorced and had their lives fall apart completely. It seems like money wasn’t enough to buy them their dream life, and failed to stop them from eroding from bad habits.

Luckily, Xin didn’t quit her job as an IT engineer at a state-owned enterprise. Instead, she started her own live streaming channel, making short videos of unboxing delivery packages.

“Sometimes fortune might just be a little late, but it is sure to arrive,” She said on her 26-year-old birthday on October 13.

The Chosen One

Xin Xiaodai has not been the only “chosen one” on the internet in China.

Back in 2009, a weird saying went viral online, “Believe in Brother Chun for eternal life”. “Brother Chun” is an internet nickname for Chinese female singer Li Yuchun, due to her apparent androgynous appearance.

“Believe Brother Chun for eternal life” photoshopped by netizens

The term has even been included into the American Urban Dictionary: “Nowadays, Brother chun is not only a real man, but also a religion.” “It is commonly believed that, the true believers of Brother Chun shall never fail any course throughout their entire college life.” The explanation sounds very much absurd.

With the popularity of the show Produce 101 (a reality television talent competition franchise), Yang Chaoyue, an average country girl was able to become so popular and hence, yet another “chosen one”. She is, honestly and objectively speaking, a rather poor dancer, singer, and rather a dull performer overall. She is perhaps lacking of a note-worthy talent, but still managed to make her debut as an idol, largely due to having good looks and acting like a ditzy klutz most of the time while on the show. It is perhaps safe to assume that she has as many fans as haters. But both groups thought it fun to retweet an image of her praying, a rather new meme based of her, where she’s referred to as a koi (a symbol of good luck). Haters even invented the slogan, “If you want to reap without sowing, retweet Yang Chaoyue!”

Yang Chaoyue’s praying meme

Why is it so easy to create a god-like figure on the internet?

In the book The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind by French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon, there is a passage that reads, “once the individual becomes a member of the group, what he does is no longer responsible. Then everyone will reveal the side that he is not bound by. The pursuit and belief of the group has never been the truth and reason, but blind obedience, cruelty, paranoia and fanaticism. They just only know the simple and extreme feelings.”

In simple terms, one is usually made somewhat less intelligent and rational when acting as part of a group. We don’t need reason or truth to follow a trend, or in our case, retweet a post.

Making a great fortune overnight: Good or bad?

In a recent episode of a hit debate variety show I can I BB, a debate was held with the topic “is making a great fortune overnight a good thing or a bad thing?

An interesting argument is, it deprives people of their rationality by feeding them the illusion that it is possible to get rich or realize their dreams overnight, all we need is a bit of luck, or maybe a large portion of it.

It is in fact a rather terrifying suggestion, what with all the false hopes and expectations and what not. Imagine a coin toss could possess the potential of changing everything. It is similar to the illusion that tells you your prince charming will be waiting for you at a random corner on the street. All you need to do is to show up at the right spot, at the right time. The idea haunts you, possess you, and ultimately leads to stagnation, hampering you from making any real progress.

In Harry Potter, Felix Felicis, also called “Liquid Luck”, is a magical potion that makes the drinker lucky for a period of time, during which every endeavor pursued by the subject will be successful. However if an excessive amount is taken, the potion may cause giddiness, recklessness, and dangerous overconfidence. Before a Quidditch match, Harry tricked Ron Wesley into believing that he had secretly put a few drops of Liquid Luck into Ron’s drinks. Then, due to the remarkable placebo effect, Roy performed wonderfully well in the match.

Felix Felicis, also called “Liquid Luck”

So, the way I see it, a little luck can get you a long way, provided that it isn’t overpowering. The right mindset to have would be to believe that you would be successful in anything you do, based on skill and not a heavy reliance on a stroke of luck.

And thus, when I woke up this morning and saw a Weibo blogger’s post saying “A trip to Turkey that’s worth 15,000 yuan and 5 iPhone Xs Max, all for one person, retweet and you will get the chance to win,” I couldn’t help but follow the account and retweet it several times.

Because hey, anyone has the odds to win. Isn’t that right?

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