And Finally

Carpe diem

Alipay pays out giant prize in Koi contest


A symbol of abundance

The fish has always been associated with good fortune in China. Pronounced as yu, it sounds similar to words that mean “abundance” or “surfeit” in various dialects. Koi fish, in particular, are a favourite of feng shui experts for predictions on prosperity, health and marriage – because of legends that portend the koi’s potential to transform into a dragon.

On October 4 a koi was sold at auction in Japan for a record ¥203 million ($1.81 million). Known as S Legend, the three-foot-three female is of the Kohaku variety and has won the All Japan Koi Show for two years in a row.

The successful bidder was a Taiwanese koi expert called Zhong Yingying, who was reportedly commissioned by a tycoon to acquire the nine year-old fish as a gift for Jack Ma to mark his impending retirement from Alibaba (see WiC424).

“The truth will be out in February,” Zhong said cryptically, when asked about whether the fish is meant for the 54 year-old mogul.

One thing’s for sure: Ma’s mobile payment platform Alipay has given a big present to a netizen under a promotional campaign called “Chinese Koi”.

To cash in on the festive mood surrounding the National Day holiday, Alipay organised a lucky draw for weibo users who forwarded the congratulatory message “Wish you to become a Chinese Koi”. (Alibaba owns 32% of Sina Weibo.) The winner of the draw – who was said to have had a one in three million chance of getting the prize – was promised items worth over Rmb500,000 ($72,116) from 200 of Alipay’s partners, reckoned

The giveaways included cosmetics, fashion goods, restaurant vouchers and theatre tickets, spa treatments and sightseeing passes, as well as hotel stays and travel tickets. The most unusual (and expensive) item: a two-month course at the General Chennault Flying Tiger Academy in Texas reportedly costing Rmb200,000. (Claire Lee Chennault’s three volunteer American fighter pilot squadrons helped defend China against the Japanese during the Second World War.)

It then emerged that a 26 year-old from Tianjin was the lucky winner of the Alipay bonanza. “I don’t have to work for the rest of my life, do I?” she joked on her weibo after hearing of the windfall, before picking up over a million new followers on the Chinese Twitter-equivalent.

The giveaways didn’t end there for the IT engineer either. Her comments about retirement and the huge spike in interest in her weibo account saw other companies jump on the bandwagon and offer her gifts, according to an Alipay staffer.

“More and more foreign brands decided to increase their offerings after the initiative went viral. That means the ‘Chinese Koi’ will always get to enjoy freebies with just a swipe wherever she goes, as long as there’s Alipay,” said the employee, calling the winner by her newly coined nickname among netizens – ‘The Chinese Koi’.

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