What Do Koi Fish Represent in Chinese Culture?

In the traditional Chinese culture, the koi fish represents good luck, love, fortune, wealth, goodness, prosperity, courage, strength, ambition, perseverance, and success.

According to the Yellow River legend, koi fish that succeeded in reaching the top of the Dragon Gate were transformed into dragons by the Gods as a reward for their tenacity.

The beautifully patterned scales of the koi fish are believed to bless your life with self-awareness, light, and a clear perception of your identity and purpose in this world.

The koi fish is said to bring a positive change to your life and to motivate you to keep on trying until you attain what is destined for you.

In this article, we will be taking an in-depth look at what the koi fish represents in Chinese culture and the different spiritual meanings of finding a koi fish around you. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

Legend of the Yellow River

While there are many legends associated with the koi fish in Asian cultures, most of them stemmed from the Chinese legend of the Dragon Gate.

According to Chinese folklore, an abundance of golden koi fish lived in China’s Yellow River. One day a group of koi fish decided to swim against the current of the waves. However, they failed terribly.

Determined to reach the top of the waterfall, the koi fish kept swimming together against the current, displaying perseverance and power.

It is said that the koi fish’s golden scales made the river shimmer like it was a river of gold. On reaching halfway up the stream came a huge waterfall, with an impossible height for the koi fish to cross.

Seeing this, most koi fish returned to the safer grounds. Whereas the ones that stayed tried to jump and surpass the great waterfall.

The koi fish kept trying for over a hundred years of continuous struggle. Until one day, a koi tried a different strategy. This koi fish went to the bottom of the river to build up as much speed as possible.

It then leaped out of the water and swam as fast as it could up the waterfall, succeeding in reaching the top of the Dragon Gate.

Witnessing the undying determination and dedication of the koi fish, the spirits of Dragon Gate were silent, and as a reward, they transformed the koi fish into a magnificent golden dragon. 

Also read: Why are Koi Fish so Popular?

Spiritual and Religious Important of Koi Fish in the Chinese Culture

There are many religious and spiritual connotations attached to the brave and resilient koi fish. According to Chinese tradition, the koi is believed to bring tranquility, calm, and peace to its surroundings.

Keeping a koi fish in your house can bring positive energies, improving your relationships with your loved ones.

On the other hand, finding a koi fish brings a message of happiness and persistence to your life. It also predicts emotional stability and an upcoming phase of opportunities and achievements.

Koi fish is a reminder to stay optimistic even in the most challenging times. It encourages you to have faith in yourself and remember that no matter how dark it gets, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

What Does the Koi Fish Represent in Yin Yang?

Did you know that the black and white teardrop-shaped Yin Yang symbols represent two koi fish, one male and one female?

The eye of both the teardrops symbolizes the constant watchful eye of the koi fish, bringing good luck, prosperity, and happy relationships.

Completing each other and forming a perfect circle, the Yin and Yang symbol is synonymous with happiness and harmony.

It depicts the perfect balance of positive and negative energy in a person’s life.

What Does the Direction of the Koi Fish Represent?

If you have seen a koi fish depicted in a statue, tattoo, or painting, know that the direction in which the fish swim greatly influences its meaning.

To make things even more complicated, it is believed that the meaning of the koi fish can vary depending upon the person it belongs to.


A koi fish swimming in direction of the water currents can have several meanings, depending on your age. Some of the interpretations are given below:

  • You don’t have the means and strength to overcome the obstacles yet, maybe because you are a child or teenager.
  • You have already achieved all your goals and are at peace with your life. Hence there’s no need for the koi to swim against the waves.


A koi fish swimming upwards is by far the most common representation in art and literature. It is a symbol of unwavering determination against the obstacles and struggles of life.

The unrelenting counterforce of the fish against the river stream can have the following meaning:

  • You are fighting with courage and are determined to win the battle.
  • You have successfully overcome obstacles in your life and have become a stronger person.
  • The koi fish swimming upwards is also an emblem of the independence, strength, and power that you have gained from the battle.

What Do Different Colors of the Koi Fish Symbolize?

In the traditional Chinese culture, different members of the koi family are represented by different colors.

While a red koi symbolizes mother, black represents father, pink signifies daughter, and the blue color stands for the oldest son.

In addition, the koi fish’s different colors represent different stages of a person’s life and personality. Here is what each color of the koi fish personifies:

Pink Koi Fish

Known as the feminine color, the pink koi fish stands for young females and daughters. It represents fertility, love, care, goodness, and the power of femininity in general.

According to tradition, if a woman is pregnant and is visited by a pink koi fish, then it means that she is having a baby girl.

Moreover, seeing a pink koi fish can also be an admonition from the universe that you must take control of your feminine power.

Blue Koi Fish

The blue koi fish is associated with fertility and masculinity. It symbolizes the son of the family and means calmness, serenity, and peace.

Seeing a blue koi fish brings tranquility if you are a troubled soul. Simply put, no matter how stressed your life is, being visited by a blue koi fish is a sign of forthcoming peace and harmony in your life.

Red Koi Fish

Representing a very passionate, strong, and masculine love, the red koi fish depicts strength, bravery, and power in oriental cultures.

It is usually used to symbolize the female figures of a family, specifically mothers. The red koi fish is also recognized as the matriarchal koi.

Here is what the two red-colored koi fish mean:

  1. The Kuchibeni white and red patterned “Lipstick Koi Fish” signifies long-lasting love and relationships.
  2. Having a white body with red spots, this “Kohaku Koi Fish” epitomizes success in your career.

Furthermore, seeing a red koi fish in your dream means that the universe is asking you to become more passionate about fulfilling your life’s purpose.

Black Koi Fish

The black koi fish symbolizes success after overcoming an obstacle in one’s life. The black koi fish represents a father figure. 

Black is the color of dominance and masculinity and is often recognized as getting past a period of great struggle.

There are typically two species of black koi fish, one features an all-black body, and the other has a white body with black spots. Both of the Kumonryu Koi fish represent transformation and life changes.

Gold Koi Fish

Affiliated with abundance, riches, and wealth, the “Yamabuki” gold koi fish is a symbol of well-being, prosperity, wealth, and riches.

So, if you have seen a gold koi fish, it means that your life is about to take a new positive turn, and your life will be showered with happiness and prosperity.

White Koi Fish

White color denotes success in a person’s career. The white koi fish often predicts advancement in work, achievement, and celebration.

Black and White Koi Fish

Known as the colors of harmony, the black and white koi fish signifies a major transformation in your life.

Black and white are the colors of the Yin and Yang and are used as a sign of good luck not only in China but worldwide.

Dragon Koi Fish

When it comes to the koi fish species, the dragon koi fish is one of the strongest and most powerful koi. Known to be a descendant of the koi who reached the top of the Yellow River waterfall.

The dragon koi fish denotes rebirth, growth, ferocity, power, and transformation. It motivates people and tells them how facing their difficulties head-on can transform them into stronger human beings.

No matter the color or specie, the koi fish will always represent positivity. Whether it is courage, perseverance, longevity, or good fortune, the koi fish encompasses it all.

Wrapping It Up!

The koi fish brings positivity, fortune, wealth, love, goodness, courage, strength, success, happiness, and emotional stability. Therefore, you should never take the presence of a koi fish for granted.

Instead, you should allow the power of the koi fish to saturate your soul and transform you into a better and more successful person while entering a season of endless opportunities and possibilities.

The legendary tale of the Yellow River doesn’t only inspire us to become as brave as the koi fish but teaches us to face our inner fears and evolve into stronger and better human beings.

Remember that if koi fish can succeed in reaching the top of a waterfall after a century of countless tries, so can you!

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