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Tattoo Fortune Fish

Updated on June 21, 2011

Fish - A Good Luck Charm?

The Oriental world has long been believed that fishes bring in tremendous good luck and prosperity. Beautiful water colored paintings on canvases and highly detailed murals have long been a mainstay in Chinese and Japanese culture with walls being adorned with many of the paintings. So what does the fish symbolize in the Oriental faith and is the fish still considered a good luck charm in the modern Oriental world?

Probably the most famous of these fishes is the carp, or the Koi as the Japanese call it. Both the Chinese and Japanese have similar legendary tales regarding the carp, with the legend dating as far back as 2000 years ago. Legend has it that carps would swim upstream to the Dragon Gate and successful carps that manage to leap over the gate to the waterfall would be transformed into dragons.

Fortune Fishes

Tattooed Fortune Fishes
Tattooed Fortune Fishes

Fortune Fishes

While there have been plenty of paintings depicting this tale of perseverance and encouragement throughout the era, in these modern days, some have gotten themselvesintricate tattoosof these carps on their arms and shins transforming into dragons on their very body. The famous Japanese video game Pokémon has a character that starts off as a carp that evolves into a dragon over time. The word carp in Chinese language sounds like “business”, hence major Asian companies usually have a pond filled with Chinese carps or Japanese kois to symbolize a benefit and success in business.

There are other fishes that symbolize plenty of other things in the Orient as well. The word fish in the Chinese language correlates to affluence and abundance, hence, fishes symbolize wealth. One of the more expensive fishes to rear is the Arowana or the dragon fish. The Arowana represents happiness and good luck. One of the newer fish kept in aquariums are the Luo Hans or the flower horn fish. These fishes have odd markings on their sides that resemble Chinese characters. While the craze over the flower horn fish has died down lately, the price tag for this fish, specifically the ones with marking resembling the Chinese character of wealth and luck fetch prices in the thousands!

Tattooed Fishes

However, the newest craze that has hit Asia has to be thetattooedfish craze. Originating in Southwest China, the Qingshiqiao market in Chengdu sells traditional parrot fishes that have been tattooed with lasers. Chinese characters of Luck, Good Fortune, Long Life and Happiness are tattooed on the parrot fish. While a normal parrot fish costs only 10 Yuan, a tattooed one could fetch over double its price.

However, since the world media has brought the news over to the Western side of the globe, many are already crying foul over these fishes. Aquarium and pet fish enthusiasts feel that tattooing these fishes are considered cruel and going as far as stating that tattooing the fishes is just like tattooing a human being, there are psychological effects to the fish and surely damaging to its body. Others however, thought the idea of tattooing positive Chinese characters to the fish is a refreshing and novel idea and it brings good fortune to homes without paying an expensive amount for it. The parrot fish is significantly cheaper than the Arowana or the Carp.

From paintings to murals to live fishes, it is clear that the idea of fish bringing good luck and fortune to its owners is still very much alive in the Oriental world. However, while beautiful paintings and the painting of Chinese calligraphy on empty canvas is entirely permissible and should definitely be labeled as a form of art as well as a form of good luck, tattooing a harmless fish with laser is quite out of the norm and sounds quite harsh and hurtful to the fishes, don’t you agree?


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    • finatics profile image


      8 years ago

      I agree that fish tattoeing is cruel, and unfortunately hasn't been touched on much by animal welfare societies. There have been studies carried out that showed tattoed fish were more prone to disease than normal fish, and besides the unnatural color on the fish fades after a period of time anyway. Is it really worth the lives of innocent animals to keep novelties in the home aquarium?


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