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The Koi fish is a carp like fish from east Asia. It holds symbolic meaning in oriental cultures.

Waterfall Legend

“One particular legend is the koi fish’s claim to fame. An ancient tale tells of a huge school of golden koi swimming upstream the Yellow River in China. Gaining strength by fighting against the current, the school glimmered as they swam together through the river. When they reached a waterfall at the end of the river, many of the koi turned back, letting the flow of the river carry them away.

The remaining koi refused to give up. Leaping from the depths of the river, they attempted to reach the top of the waterfall to no avail. Their efforts caught the attention of local demons, who mocked their efforts and heightened the waterfall out of malice. After a hundred years of jumping, one koi finally reached the top of the waterfall. The gods recognized the koi for its perseverance and determination and turned it into a golden dragon, the image of power and strength.”

The legend goes on to say that once the koi became a dragon, it would fly around in the heavens chasing down pearls of wisdom.


Symbolism of Courage

In Japanese culture the Koi fish also represents strength of character. The Koi fish are well travelled, and the story of Koi fish climbing waterfalls symbolizes strength, determination, courage, and the struggle against adversity. Yet in some Japanese folklore, it is said that if a fish were to be caught, it would lie still on the chopping block, without fear, and without quiver, waiting for the fisherman’s knife. The story symbolizes the courage that would be befitting for a samurai.


“Never forget, only dead fish go with the flow.”

Personal Association

I fell in love with both the myths and legends of the koi fish. It has become a reminder to never give up in the face of adversity, and to find the strength and courage to swim against the tide in order to achieve greatness.

To that end, I have placed it as a key image on my website to share my philosophy, and to remind myself of the struggle for success.

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