The words “koi” and “nishikigoi” come from the Japanese reading of Classical Chinese words 鯉 (common carp) and 錦鯉 (brocaded carp) respectively. In both languages, the former can refer to many Asian carp species. In Japanese, “koi” is a homophone for 恋, another word that means “affection” or “love”, so koi are symbols of love and friendship.
The koi has important symbolic meaning in traditional Chinese culture and Japanese culture, relevant accounts can be seen in various ancient Chinese poetry and literature since Jin dynasty; while in Japan, it’s closely associated with the country’s national identity, often as a symbol of luck, prosperity, and good fortune.
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