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Symbolism of Koi Fish

Updated on June 22, 2011

Koi is popular type of freshwater fish which is often used as a garden ornament. It is a domesticated variety of wild carp selectively bred to obtain diversity in colors and patterns. Their undeniable beauty, mesmerizing colors and ability to easily adapt to pond environments captivated lots of people around the world. It is believed that it arrived in Japan during the 8th century and since then it became an important part of their culture. The symbolism of koi fish has been highly recognized by the Japanese. The wild carp or ‘Nishikigoi’ as they call it signifies strength, perseverance and bravery while its whiskers stand for wisdom.

Some say that the wild carp was originally from China. A Chinese legend about a mythical koi surpassing the heavy current of the Dragon Gate waterfalls became a strong basis for its present representation. The tale talks about how it bravely climbed up against the stream and after surmounting all the odds it magically transformed into a dragon symbolizing advancement and aspiration.

Ghostly Koi

Koi - Masculinity - Strength - Fearless

It also became a hit design in horimono tattoos connoting masculinity. A true man shows no fear and faces challenges with courage and strength just like how the koi strongly conquered the Dragon Gate waterfalls. It is believed that the fearless carp gracefully embraces its fate when held captive by the fisherman. It simply lies on the cutting board as if awaiting its death without struggling. It is a similar trait seen with Samurai warriors who would rather choose to do the honor of taking their own lives than be a captive of their opponent. This is why its unrelenting acts of valor have always been compared to a samurai warrior.

Koi Tattoos

Keeping Koi is Sure to Bring You Luck

The Koi Also Symbolizes Success and Wealth

Chinese people always associate it with success and wealth. They believe that fish serves as lucky charms which can bring them good fortune. A koi fish swimming against the current symbolizes overcoming adversity through patience and perseverance. Most people are inspired by the tale of the legendary koi because it gives them hope that amidst all the trials and difficulties, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

The direction to where it is facing has also been given its own meaning and interpretation. Japanese believe that a carp swimming downwards signifies the struggles of overcoming difficulties and hardships. But once it starts swimming upwards it means that the trials have already been subjugated.

The strength of character, perseverance and acts of fearlessness are the symbolism of koi fish which will always give hope and inspiration to those who are starting to lose their faith after being bombarded by countless trials and adversities. They say that fish have the power to alter the state of mind allowing your imagination to overpower you capturing all your hidden aspirations in life.

Koi Keeping - Your Comments Please

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  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I heard that the koi carp are extremely sxpensive


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