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Motif Information
Motif koi 01.jpg
Rōmaji Koi
English Carp
Kana こい
Season Summer
Seasonal Exceptions Winter
Auspicious Yes
Motif Type Fish

The carp is hardy fish that endures harsh weather. The Chinese use the carp as a symbol of the scholar who perseveres.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Text about seasonal use

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

The legend has it that when a carp rises the mythical river and its rapids to its root, it ascends its being and turns into a dragon. Thus it stands for tenacious strength and striving for betterment. It is a manly pattern, especially if depicted in the river.

Also symbolizes fertility and children as it bears many eggs during spawning season. A pair of carp for fertility is a popular New Year's decoration.

Auspicious Nature

Koi is a homophone for the Japanese word koi (恋) which means being in love. Two koi depicted together often represent this wordplay. The carp is also auspicious for its legend.

A noble Daoist, Zi Ying, is depicted as a child perched on the back of a carp. One day Zi Ying caught a carp and rather than eat it, he kept it in a pond and fed it. Shortly, it grew ten feet long, wings, and sprouted horns, becoming a vehicle that would take him to heaven.

If the figure is standing on the back of a carp or reading a book it may be Kin Kao, the recluse of Chao. In folklore Kin Kao lived by a river, painting fish. One day the King of Fish came to him and offered to lead him through the river of the world. When he returned he taught that the fish should not be killed and disappeared into the water.

Common Motif Pairings

Identification & Style Variations

Koi are most easily distinguished from kingyo, goldfish, by their barbels or "whiskers" which kingyo lack. Koi are also frequently depicted much larger and more realistically than kingyo, which are often stylized to emphasize their cute attributes.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Where possible - try to find examples of motif in literature, art and real life. If you are unable to find an example - remove this section.

In Poetry

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

  • Link to any relevant threads on IG


Image Credits

  • Chiisana Hato
  • Tsubame

Authors & Contributors

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