Koi fish, or Carp, are a fixture of Japanese tattooing and play important roles in both Chinese and Japanese myths, legends, fables and stories. In many of those stories, Koi are transformed through their efforts and perseverance, able to climb waterfalls or becomeÂ dragons. The Koi as a symbol represents perseverance in the face of adversity and strength of character or purpose. The Carp can also represents wisdom, knowledge, longevity, and loyalty.
Koi come in hues of yellow, gold, orange, some even calico-colored. These ‘living jewels’ can live for generations, becoming tame enough to feed from the hands of their keepers. A koi’s age is determined by the rings of its scales. Although the average age for a koi is between 15 – 30 years, one female koi in Japan is reported to have died in 1977 at age 226. A koi’s longevity has come to symbolize perseverance, and its beauty of form and movement has inspired artists and delighted those who watch it respond to music by changing the way it swims.
In Japan and China the koi has long been a symbol of masculinity and strength. Legends tell of it leaping up the falls at Dragon Gate on the Yellow River in China. In the process it transformed into a dragon, proof of its successful struggle against the long odds. If caught, the koi is said to await the cutting knife without a quiver, in the manner of the Samurai warrior facing the sword. In Buddhism, the koi represents fearlessness and courage on its journey through the ocean, a reminder of human suffering through our own life’s journey. A popular fish like the koi has spawned many legends and myths over the centuries. The spread of koi across Asia is attributed to Genghis Khan during the 12th century when he used them as a food source for his troops by introducing them into the lakes along his routes.
The beauty and charm of the koi has made it a popular symbol for the family, especially in Japan where tubular flags designed as koi are raised on Children’s Day — black koi for father, flame red koi for mother, blue and white for boy, and pink and red for girl. On Boys’ Day Festival in Japan, each son in the family is honoured by a koi flag as an inspiration to the young that they might grow strong and resilient like this exceptional fish.
It’s no surprise that koi tattoos are popular where masculinity is valued. In Japan, the koi would appear on a young man’s fore-arm or leg. As he continued his life’s journey he might eventually earn a dragon for his final back piece, echoing the legend of the leaping koi transforming into a dragon at Dragon Gate. Coloring, whiskers, scaling and special marks represent a range of qualities a young man might wish for in his life. For personal greatness and national pride, a white koi with a single red spot on the head would be the chosen design. Freehand custom koi tattoo done in morbid tattoo parlor in cash and carry mall makati.