Lucky Cat and Fortune Bat – Auspicious Chinese Animals

Since the dawn of time, animals have played important symbolic roles throughout China. Both real natural animals and mythical beasts have taken on lucky, auspicious or generally superstitious meanings that still hold up today. Venture into any Chinese restaurant in the West and you are likely to see a small golden cat waving at you from behind the counter. This Feng Shui Cat is believed to welcome good fortune to a business.

Many animals that are considered dirty or evil in the West have positive meanings in Chinese society. For instance, bats, sometimes called ‘fortune bats’ symbolize prosperity and are often shown on small charms meant to bring wealth. Similarly, pigs (or boars) represent vitality, and so according to Chinese zodiac, bearing children in the Year of the Pig is most privileged. Finally, rats, a most despised animal in the West, are considered to be clever, quick-witted and sharp.

Chinese families also often keep charms, statues and keepsakes in their homes or even on their person to either welcome good fortune or fend off bad luck. For instance, the Blue Rhinoceros statue is often seen in Chinese homes as he is said to keep away robbers and thieves.

Most of the Chinese positive associations with these animals stems from either the Chinese recognition of the animals best traits, or a similarity between the sound of the animal’s name in Chinese and the sound of a lucky word. For example, in Mandarin, ‘elephant’ sounds very similar to ‘auspicious’, and elephants often appear on decorative items or pieces of furniture.

Several types of birds are also prized in Chinese culture. Egrets are often portrayed with lotus, as their names sound similar in Chinese, and the pictures usher in smooth business transactions. Cranes, meanwhile, symbolize longevity and eternal youth. Magpies are often portrayed sitting among newly blossomed plum trees, a picture that depicts joy and freshness of life.

Mythical bests such as the dragons and phoenix are also very common in China. Since the animals came from legends, rather than real life, they were often imbued with higher powers than average beasts. Many Chinese people believe they are descended from a dragon and that the dragon is a benevolent creature with the power to positively influence their lives. The phoenix, which is said to die and be reborn from its own ashes, is a symbol of immortality and health. The image of a phoenix often appears on traditional Chinese fans, which allows the carrier to reap good health.


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