In Chinese and Japanese culture, the Koi fish has a deep history and symbolic meaning. They mark one of the rare instances of domesticated fish. Originally carp, they were bred for their rich colors.
Some believe, however, that long ago, they descended from dragons.
The story goes that once there was a huge school of fish made up of thousands of Koi swimming in the Yellow River in China. They went upriver, pushing against the current until they came to a waterfall. Many turned back, believing it was too difficult an obstacle.
Some koi, however, kept trying and trying to jump over it. They kept at it for hundreds of years until finally, one koi made it to the top. To reward his persistence and bravery, the gods of the river turned that fish into a golden dragon.
Today the waterfall is known as the dragon’s gate, and some believe that any fish that can jump it will still be transformed into a dragon.
When a koi fish is caught, it will not flop and try to flee. With the bravery of a samurai, it awaits the inevitable blade that will take its life.
Coupled with the ancient symbol of yin and yang—light and dark, balance in the universe—this tattoo is one of the most powerful and symbolic images known to man. People with this tattoo do not sit down and die, but remain persistent in all aspects of life. Win or lose, they stoically accept their fate as another turn of the wheel.