The popularity of Koi tattoos is growing everyday. So what makes these brightly colored fish so popular? Many just like their ornamental beauty and bold colors, while others choose a koi because of the symbolism that it represents. So what does this magnificent fish represent?
Koi originated in China and they were introduced into Japan in the 1800's. According to Chinese legend, it is believed that if a koi succeeded in climbing the Yellow River falls to "Dragon's Gate" then it would be transformed into a dragon. This symbolizes worldly aspiration and advancement. In Japan they are considered a manly symbol and according to legend, if a koi climbs the waterfall bravely, and if they are caught, they will lay on the cutting board completely still facing their death bravely just as a samurai would. Based on that legend, the Japanese associate koi with perseverance and strength.
Koi fish are very powerful and energetic and they can swim against the current to reach food or spawning ground. This fact also has bearing on whether people have their koi tattoo swimming up or down. It is said that if the fish is swimming upstream then you have overcome a hardship during trying times. If it is swimming down, then you are struggling with a hardship. However others translate this to mean that a koi tattoo swimming upstream represents a very independent person that has very little concern for what others think. You would rather be your own person and face the challenge of swimming against a hard current than to conform to the rules of society. This is an act of power and you cannot be deterred by anything.