Saturday, September 19, 2009
Carps Jumping Over the Dragon Gate 鲤鱼跳龙门
It is common to see golden carp fish swim leisurely in peaceful ponds in Chinese gardens. The Chinese like carp fish because the Chinese character for carp (li) is pronounced the same as both the character (li) for "profit" and the character (li) for "strength" or "power". The carp is also a symbol for an abundance of children because it produces many eggs.
For the Chinese, a pair of carp symbolizes a harmonious marriage.
In Chinese paintings, a frequently seen image is of a carp swimming and leaping against the current of a river. This refers to the legend that a carp which is able to leap over the mythical "Dragon Gate" will become a dragon. This is an allegory for the persistent effort needed to overcome obstacles.
The legend comes from Tai Ping Guang Ji (Tai Ping Anthologies):
‘East of the Yellow River stood a mountain called Longmen (Dragon Gate). King Yu dug into it and made in it a one-li (half-km) long gate, through which the Yellow River flowed downward. On neither side of it could carriages or horses stand or move.