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. in the early 1800s Japanese farmers began keeping them for aesthetics. The ornamental brocaded carp that we know today consists of varieties derived from the domesticated common carp, a hardy cold-water fish bred specifically to decorate ponds and water gardens. Left to their own devices within a few generations their offspring return to their naturally drab crypsis of dull olive scales. Over the years, koi fish meaning and symbolism has become iconic around the world.
The koi fish is a symbol with extremely deep meaning in Japanese and Chinese Culture: According to Chinese ancient myth, there was once a giant school made up of thousands of koi fish swimming up the Yellow River in China. As they swam, they gained strength by pushing against the current. However, on the Yellow River, there is a waterfall. Once the fish reached the waterfall, most turned back and just went with the current because it became too hard. The ones who remained continued to try to reach the top of the waterfall. These koi kept trying for one hundred years. At last, one koi successfully leaped to the top of the waterfall. To reward this dedicated koi, the gods turned it into a beautiful golden dragon. The falls have become known as the “Dragon’s Gate.” And legend has it that to this day, any koi that has the strength and perseverance to complete to journey up Dragon’s Gate will become a heavenly dragon.
In the old Japanese capital of Kyoto, there is a particular rock that is said to represent a carp swimming upstream and seems to echo this same myth.
Koi, evoking images of energy, power and courage, is a worthy symbol for overcoming life’s difficulties and achieving ultimate success. The Japanese saying “koi no taki-nobori” (“koi climbing the rapids”) reflects this too, in the belief that the carp is a spirited fish, so strong that it can fight its way up waterfalls, and through its strength and determination overcome all obstacles.
A koi’s colouring also has something to do with its symbolism. Certain colors represent certain aspects or outcomes in life. Here are a few mythical meanings. Kohaku – This koi has a white body with red spots and symbolizes success in your career.
Kumonryu – There are two main variations of this koi. One variation is a koi with a white body and black spots and the other is an all black body. This Kumonryu koi symbolizes life changes and transformations.
Nezu Ogon – This solid, silver colored koi symbolically represents success in business and wealth.
Kuchibeni – Often referred to as the “lipstick” fish, because the red coloring around its mouth makes it appear as though the fish is wearing lipstick. Kuchibeni koi represents love and long lasting relationships.
Yamabuki – The Yamabuki koi is gold in coloring and symbolizes riches and wealth.
In feng shui, the koi is tied to the yin yang symbol. In fact, the black and white tear drops of the yin yang symbol are said to be representations of two koi, one male and one female. The eye of each teardrop is symbolic of the constant watchful eye of the koi. This pairing of fish is often seen outside the context of the yin yang symbol as well. For example, a pair of koi is often used as a good luck symbol for a happy marriage.
The koi is synonymous with harmony and happiness. The two yin and yang koi complete each other and create a perfect balance of the negative and positive energies of chi energy, which is the life-force of all things on earth.