koi fish meaning and myth
Koi are a legendary fish. Graceful, vibrant, and one of the most recognizable fish in the world, koi are well-loved and respected. Often associated with Japan, koi actually originated from Central Asia in China. They were introduced to Japan by Chinese invaders. The koi got their name around 500 B.C, but the fish itself has been around for much longer. Fossils of ancient koi date back 20 million years. Natural genetic mutation brought about the brilliant colors in koi known today, and in the early 1800s Japanese farmers began keeping them for aesthetics. Over the years, koi fish meaning and symbolism has become iconic around the world.
Chinese invaders first introduced the koi fish to Japan.
WATERFALL LEGENDOne particular legend is the koi fish’s claim to fame. An ancient tale tells of a huge school of golden koi swimming upstream the Yellow River in China. Gaining strength by fighting against the current, the school glimmered as they swam together through the river. When they reached a waterfall at the end of the river, many of the koi turned back, letting the flow of the river carry them away.
The remaining koi refused to give up. Leaping from the depths of the river, they attempted to reach the top of the waterfall to no avail. Their efforts caught the attention of local demons, who mocked their efforts and heightened the waterfall out of malice. After a hundred years of jumping, one koi finally reached the top of the waterfall. The gods recognized the koi for its perseverance and determination and turned it into a golden dragon, the image of power and strength.
Undeterred koi are legend to have swam upstream China’s Yellow River.
SYMBOLISM AND MEANINGKoi fish are associated with positive imagery. Because of the dragon legend, they are known as symbols of strength and perseverance, as seen in their determinative struggle upstream. And because of the lone koi that made it to the top of the waterfall, they are also known as symbols of a destiny fulfilled. Resulting from its bravery in swimming upstream, the koi is oftentimes associated with Samurai Warriors in Japan. The integrity and high sense of character koi are known for makes them a popular tattoo choice both in Asia as well as America. Check out our post on koi tattoos to learn more.
The koi is known for its strength, individuality, character, and perseverance.
Koi fish are also symbolized according to their coloration. Black koi represent masculinity. It also signifies a patriarchal role. Gold koi symbolize prosperity and wellbeing in business. Blue koi, often associated with the role of the son, represents tranquility. Red koi represent strength and power. It also is recognized as the matriarchal koi.