The Rivers Daily Muse ep. 5

Lee Rivers

Good Morning All,

Today I am going to share with you the myth of the Koi and the Dragon Gate. If you can't tell yet, I love digging into myths, legends, and stories from all over the world and grasping on to the pearls of wisdom they contain. This one is my favorite so far. What comes next is from a Koi fish blog: it had one of the most succinct retellings of the myth I found, with a little historical Koi facts thrown in at the front. Enjoy!


Koi are a legendary fish. Graceful, vibrant, and one of the most recognizable fish in the world, koi are well-loved and respected. Often associated with Japan, koi actually originated from Central Asia in China. They were introduced to Japan by Chinese invaders. The koi got their name around 500 B.C, but the fish itself has been around for much longer. Fossils of ancient koi date back 20 million years. Natural genetic mutation brought about the brilliant colors in koi known today, and in the early 1800s Japanese farmers began keeping them for aesthetics. Over the years, koi fish meaning and symbolism has become iconic around the world.


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.


Koi fish are associated with positive imagery. Because of the dragon legend, they are known as symbols of strength and perseverance, as seen in their determinative struggle upstream. And because of the lone koi that made it to the top of the waterfall, they are also known as symbols of a destiny fulfilled. Resulting from its bravery in swimming upstream, the koi is oftentimes associated with Samurai Warriors in Japan. The integrity and high sense of character koi are known for makes them a popular tattoo choice both in Asia as well as America.


When it comes to swimming and life in the 'real world' it can certainly feel like we're trying to climb a waterfall. It is always good to remember the story of the humble koi that didn't give up, however, and keep trying. It's also important to remember that at BCST we all have each others' back, and you will never run out of people to turn to for help along the way. 

Whatever your metaphorical waterfall is, don't give up. There is beauty in the struggle. You can do it!