Chinese Cultural Symbol: Fish

Jade & Chinese Cultural Symbol: Fish Jade & Chinese Cultural Symbol: Fish Jade & Chinese Cultural Symbol: Fish

In China, the fish represents wealth, prosperity and abundance, because the actual word in Chinese for fish, “yu”, is pronounced the same way as the words for superfluity, and also because fish are quite plentiful in waters and seas.

As a result, on New Year’s Eve it is customary to serve a fish for dinner, symbolizing the wish for accumulations of prosperity and wealth in the coming year. In addition, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year.

Fish in fact are the animals which are known to have a long period of courtship. So the dual fish represent the love and happiness wished to all married couples, as well as the successful birth of children and overall abundance of wealth.

Furthermore, as fish is happy in its own element or sphere, it has come to be the emblem of harmony and connubial bliss. In Buddhism, “the fish signifies freedom from all restrains. And in the waters a fish moves easily in any direction, so in the Buddha-state the fully-emancipated knows no restraints or obstruction.”

Buddhists believe great merit accrues to those who release living creatures such as fish or birds. Thus fish is included one of the eight sacred symbols of the Buddha (Conch, Lotus, Parasol, Wheel, Knot, Pair of Golden Fish, Banner of Victory, and Vase), and one of the charms to avert evils.

Among all kinds of fish, the carp is admired for its strength and bravery because it swims against the current. According to Chinese legend, in the third moon of each year, the sturgeon of the Yellow River made an ascent of the stream, those carps which succeeded in passing the rapids of longmen (Dragon Gate) were transformed into dragons, hence making a well-known Chinese colloquium “liyu tiao longmen” (Carp jumping over the Dragon Gate), referring to literary eminence or passing exams with distinction.

The carp also represents wealth and abundance. One of the most popular Chinese New Year painting motifs portrays a chubby boy riding on a carp in a pond full of lotus leaves and flowers, a good wish of "Year after Year May You Live in Affluence".

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Learn more about Jade & Chinese Symbolism:

Chinese Cultural Symbol: Dragon
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Phoenix
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Butterfly
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Fish
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Plum Blossom
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Bamboo
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Lotus

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