Koi, colorful carp, are a common symbol in Chinese culture. Since they swim upstream, against the current, they represent energy in nature. To the Chinese people, koi are a symbol of good fortune, longevity, success and courage. These positive attributes stem from the legend of "Dragon Gate". In this tale, koi swim through waterfalls, upstream to reach a gate at the mountaintop. When they reach the gate, it turns into a dragon, which is the most powerful symbol in the Chinese zodiac.
Two koi are often seen in the shape of the yin yang symbol, representing balance in the universe. The symbol usually has one white koi and one black, representing the male and the female, the light and the dark.
In most public gardens in China, people of all ages feed the koi, hopeful that this will bring them good fortune. The koi are huge! They clamber over one another in search of the pieces of food on the water's surface, their mouths opening and closing as if they are blowing bubbles.
Whether it be in the ponds surrounding Hangzhou's West Lake or in the Yu Garden ponds, koi are an ever present reminder of color, serenity and beauty.