For so many years, tattoo or body inking has been a common way to personalize or customize the skin. Countless ink designs with amazing and beautiful meanings can be seen everywhere. Koi fish tattoo, in particular, has recently taken the ink-lover crowd and is now in high demand.
What is a Koi Fish Tattoo?
Koi is the Japanese term for “carp”. A koi fish is a symbol with an extremely deep meaning for those people who choose it as a part of their body art. The traditional significance of a koi fish tattoo differs depending on the orientation of the fish (whether it is going up or down) and its color.
The Japanese Legend of Koi Fish
Koi fish have a really long history in the Japanese and Chinese culture. They got their name around 500 BC in China. Originally, koi fish were common carp. A few years later, they were domesticated and bred in order to produce a particular color. Chinese invaders brought koi fish to Japan where it eventually flourished.
Sometimes called as “living jewels”, koi fishes are highly respected and recognizable fishes. Its presence in our society represents a strong interest in the Eastern Asian culture. The koi fish became famous as a tattoo design due to its long-standing legend of how the koi fish become dragons. Most of the symbolism and meaning behind the fish comes from this ancient legend.
How the Koi Fish Became a Dragon
According to Japanese and Chinese myth, there was once a giant school that is made up of thousands of koi fish. This giant school of koi fish was swimming up China’s Yellow River. As they swam, they have gained strength by pushing against the current. On the Yellow River, however, there was a waterfall.
When the school of koi fish reached the waterfall, most of them turned their back and just went with the current since it became too hard to swim against it. The other koi fishes kept on trying for a hundred year.
And at last, a single koi fish has successfully leaped on to the top of the waterfall. The perseverance and patience of this dedicated koi amazed the Gods, and so to reward it, they turned it into a beautiful golden dragon.
The waterfalls are now called the “Dragon’s Gate.” And as the legend has it that up to this day, any koi fish that has the perseverance and strength to complete the journey up the Dragon’s Gate shall become a heavenly dragon.
It is also said that if a koi fish is caught, it will wait for the cut of a knife without quivering like the bravery of Samurai warrior that faces a sword in a battle. This gives a clear meaning to the cultural beliefs in the courage and strength of koi fishes.
Koi Fish Tattoo: The Meaning Behind On Which Direction It Swims
The belief about the meaning on which direction does a koi fish swims varies greatly. There are some theories that what it means are actually contradictory. However, if you want a koi fish tattoo, then there are standard symbolism that applies.
A koi fish tattoo that looks like it is swimming downstream means:
⦁ You have already overcome your obstacles and achieved your goals and that you are no longer fighting the current.
⦁ You do not yet possess the strength in order to make it against challenges and obstacles and move towards success.
A koi fish tattoo that looks like it is swimming upstream means:
⦁ You have overcome challenges and obstacles and have now gained the needed strength in order to continue towards the current.
⦁ You are currently struggling or in a battle and is still fighting obstacles and challenges but will never give up.
Koi Fish Tattoo: The Meaning Behind Its Different Colors
As I have mentioned earlier, koi fish was originally a common carp and have been bred for certain colors. There are different meanings that are associated with every color. Some of the most colors of a koi fish are:
⦁ Bluish gray
⦁ Yellow, gold or orange
The meaning for different koi fish tattoo colors are as follows:
⦁ Red Koi Fish
Red koi fishes often have the connotation of love. And it is not just any love— it symbolizes a very intense love. A red and pink koi fish is a symbol for a daughter as well as feminity while a red and orange koi fish symbolize the mother of the family. A pure red koi fish symbolizes bravery and power.
⦁ Black Koi Fish
A black koi fish is associated with successfully overcoming a challenge or obstacle. The black koi fish is a great symbol for those people who have a tough time in life and have finally found the strength to fight a tough battle. Most common obstacles include abusive relationship, drug addiction, depression and many more. Also, a black koi fish can symbolize a father of a family while a black and white koi fish is a powerful symbol that stands for a significant rebirth or life transformation.
⦁ Yellow Koi Fish
Tattoos are often used with a combination of orange and yellow color to represent a gold-colored koi fish. Such gold-colored koi fish symbolizes wealth and fortune. Its Japanese term is yamabuki.
⦁ Blue Koi Fish
A blue koi fish symbolizes masculinity and can be associated with reproduction. A blue and white koi is a symbol for the son of a family while a pure blue koi fish represents calmness, tranquility, and peace.
⦁ White Koi Fish
The white koi fish symbolizes a success in an individual’s career. A white koi fish tattoo is a great option for those who wish to celebrate achieving the job of their dreams.
Koi Fish Symbolism
Koi fish are able to adapt to various water conditions and climates which symbolize strength. It is also inherent in the nature of koi fish to swim upstream. And with the legend of koi fish, anyone can see that these fishes show great perseverance, dedication, determination, and success.
Here are some other things that a koi fish symbolizes:
⦁ Passionate love
⦁ Good luck, prosperity and a long life
⦁ Worldly advancement and aspirations
⦁ Completing a transformation in life
⦁ Reaching a goal and overcoming obstacles and challenges in life
Koi Fish Tattoos and Other Complementary Symbols
Koi fish tattoos are often incorporated with different symbols such as lotus flowers, dragons, water and fire, and the yin-yang symbol. Here are what each complementary symbols mean:
⦁ Lotus Flower
A lotus is a beautiful flower which grows on muddy ponds. Using the koi fish and lotus flower together represents struggle, pain, and growth. Just like the koi fish that started as a small and weak fish that overcame the water current and became strong, the lotus flower also starts out in a very dirty pond yet sit still grows beautifully.
Because the legend clearly states how the koi fish became a dragon at the end of its difficult and long journey, the 2 symbol represents a transformation as a whole.
A dragon koi symbolizes overcoming obstacles and difficulties, alluding to the koi fish’s climbing to the Dragon’s Gate. A dragon koi shows strength and the will to go against all odds and challenges in order to reach its destiny.
Furthermore, a dragon also represents ferocity and power, as well as mystery. It also represents a beginning, new start or a re-birth and indicated the capability to move on and begin with a clean slate.
⦁ Fire and Water
In a koi fish tattoo, when fire and water are included it exemplifies the harmony and balance in life further. It usually symbolizes the opposite powers coming together.
A koi fish tattoo is usually paired with a yin-yang symbol. The black and white sides are said to resemble a male and female koi fish swimming together, and represents a harmony on the 2 opposite energies that are coming together as one and creating a perfect balance.
According to Taoism, the yin and yang represent the opposite sides of all things and the perfect harmony and balance of them. The koi fish’s circular movements symbolize the belief that all things in this life are connected.
A yin-yang koi might also represent the zodiac sign of two fishes, Pisces.
A koi fish tattoo has become a symbol for modern people who made it through the hard times. Individuals who persevered and overcame challenges and obstacles in life use the koi fish as a symbol for their bravery and as a good luck charm in life. These stories are all linked by an idea that these individuals have battled and overcame themselves in order to get where they are today, just like the koi fish of legend.