Goldfish in Chinese Culture

Over 1,000 years ago during the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese started to selectively breed crucian carp that had a genetic mutation which produced golden fish. Ever since, the goldfish has played a major role in Chinese culture and art.

Chinese characters for goldfish

In Chinese there are two words that are spelt in English as yú. To the untrained ear they sound exactly the same, but one means fish and the other means bounty or surplus.

Therefore goldfish became a symbol of surplus and wealth, and a gift of goldfish is a blessing in the hope of good fortune.

The association of goldfish with good fortune is reinforced in legend. One tells of a period of drought ending when the world’s first goldfish jumped out of a well. Other chinese myths have goldfish present at the beginning of time.

In art, paintings of fish have been found on Chinese artifacts dating from around 8,000 BC, and goldfish can be found in Chinese art to this day. Not only do these images represent or bring abundance and success, goldfish represent the notion that it is possible for anybody to achieve whatever they want.

Chinese brush paintings of goldfish perfectly capture the lightness of the fins, the lines of the body, and the life-force of the animal in a few simple strokes.

In Feng Shui, a painting of goldfish is regarded as having the same effect as an actual goldfish tank by practitioners.

So for at least 1,000 years goldfish have been part of one the most ancient, mysterious, fascinating and successful cultures on earth. No wonder they are such a welcome feature in homes and businesses throughout the world.

4 Responses to “Goldfish in Chinese Culture”

  1. Rowena Says:

    Actually, the characters are pronounced Jin (the first) Yu (the second) Together they mean goldfish.

    You pronounce them as them as Gin(1) You(2)

  2. Alejandro Says:

    The Goldfish is a good friend with beauty and charm. As a pices, I love water and the fish.

  3. xtaatxw Says:

    Goldfish originated in China.It is strange posture, bright colors and can be described as a natural living work of art.

  4. ben Says:

    really cool

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