We have many options to create artwork with the Chinese characters / Asian symbols / Japanese Kanji for Fish on a wall scroll or portrait.
If you want to create a cool Fish Asian character tattoo, you can purchase that on our Chinese and Japanese Tattoo Image Service page and we'll help you select from many forms of ancient Asian symbols that express the idea of Fish.
Quick links to words on this page...
| 1. Fish
2. Koi Fish
3. Carp / Koi Fish
4. Koi Fish / Nishiki Goi
5. Without a big net, how can you catch fish?
6. Drain the pond to get all the fish
8. Teach A Man To Fish
9. Trigger Fish
10. Year-In Year-Out Have Abundance
|11. A Bright Future|
14. Mermaid / Merman
魚 is the character that means fish in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja.
鯉 is the Japanese Kanji which created the title "koi fish." This word is pronounced "koi" in Japanese.
Here is the reality: This character actually means "carp" in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and old Korean Hanja. Koi fish really are carp (by species) and were breed to obtain colorful variations in ancient China. Some generations later, some of these colorful fish were transported to Japan, where they also became vastly popular.
Note: Please see our other entry for koi fish (Nishiki Goi) which is a more normal selection for a Japanese koi fish enthusiast to have on their wall.
If you like or collect and maintain koi fish, this is the wall scroll for you.
Technically, this is a certain and revered species of "koi fish" in Japan but it is the most normal selection for a wall scroll (more normal than the actual Kanji for "koi" or "fish" alone.
This literally means "brocade carp" or "embroidered carp." This term is also used to mean the same thing in China (which is the origin of koi fish breeding and cultivation, several generations before they became popular in Japan).
For those of you that don't know, the Kanji for "koi" (which is pronounced "goi" in this entry) really means "carp." If you want the word that means "koi fish," it would just be the generic word for "carp fish." That would include both colorful carp, and the more mundane gray carp (the ones people eat, if they don't mind lots of bones).
This Chinese proverb literally translates as: [if one does] not cast a big net, [one can] not get big fish.
Figuratively, this means: One cannot make great accomplishments without making great efforts or taking great pains.
不撒大網不得大魚 is sort of the fishing version of, "No pain, no gain."
In 632 BC, Duke Wen of the Kingdom of Jin was about to lead an army against the forces of the Kingdom of Chu.
The Duke asked one of his advisers, Jiu Fan, how they could possibly win the impending battle, as they were drastically outnumbered.
Jiu Fan said, "All is fair in war," and went on to suggest a plan of dishonorable tactics (cheating).
The Duke was not sure of this advice, so he asked another adviser, Yong Ji, who replied, "If you catch fish by draining the pond, you can certainly get all the fish. But there will be no fish the following year. You can cheat this one time in battle but such tactics can only be used once, as the enemy will be wise in future encounters."
The Duke heard the words of his wiser adviser but cheated to gain victory in the battle. However, he rewarded Yong Ji more than Jiu Fan at the victory celebration, stating that while Jiu Fan's advice gained one victory, the wise words of Yong Ji would last forever.
This Chinese idiom/proverb is still used, over 2600 years later to remind people not to burn bridges, cheat, or dishonor oneself in exchange for a short term gain, while sacrificing the future.
竭澤而漁 is very similar to the meaning of the English phrase, "Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs."
金魚 is the title for goldfish in Chinese and Japanese.
There was a time in ancient China when only the Emperor could possess the true yellow-gold colored fish. 金魚 is why alternate coloration such as orange, black, red, and white were bred. Many believe this is why colors other than yellow-gold are more common for "goldfish" found in pet shops today.
年年有餘 is a common proverb or wish of prosperity you'll hear around the time of Chinese New Years.
Directly translated character by character it means, "Year Year Have Surplus." A more natural English translation including the deeper meaning would be "Every Year may you Have Abundance in your life."
On a side note, this phrase often goes with a gift of something related to fish. 年年有餘 is because the last character "yu" which means surplus or abundance has exactly the same pronunciation in Mandarin as the word for "fish."
年年有餘 is also one of the most common titles for traditional paintings that feature koi fish.
In China, this phrase might make an odd wall scroll - a customer asked especially for this common phrase which is why it appears here. See my other abundance-related words if you want a wall scroll that will seem more comfortable in Chinese culture.
Note: This can be pronounced in Korean, but it's not a commonly used term.
鵬程萬里 / 鵬程萬裡 is an ancient Chinese proverb used in modern times to wish someone a long and successful career.
It's really about the 10,000 Flight of the Peng (Peng, also known as Roc is a mythical fish that can turn into a bird and take flight).
庄子 - Zhuangzi
Breaking down each character:
1. Peng or Roc (a kind of bird).
2. Journey (in this case, a flight).
3. 10,000 (Ten Thousand).
4. Li is a unit of distance often referred to as a "Chinese Mile," though the real distance is about half a kilometer.
Direct Translation: "Peng's Journey [of] 10,000 Li."
Literal meaning: "The 10,000-Li Flying Range Of The Roc."
Perceived meaning: "To have a bright future" or "To go far."
This proverb/idiom comes from the book of Zhuangzi. It tells the tale of a huge fish which could turn into a gigantic bird. This bird was called "peng" and was many miles long. This legendary size allowed the Peng to fly from the Northern Sea to the Southern Sea in a single bound.
Wishing someone "a Peng's Journey of 10,000 Li," will imply that they will be able to travel far without stopping, and will have great success, a long career, and a prosperous future.
A 鲲 (Kun) is a famous sea monster, often associated or used interchangeably with a 鵬 (Peng).
鯤 is comparable to Leviathan or Jonah's whale.
In Chinese mythology, the Kun is a giant fish said to be able to turn into a bird.
This character and the mythological creature is also known in Japanese and Korean. However, in some context, this character can refer to fry (fish babies).
美人魚 is the Chinese word for mermaid.
It literally means "beautiful human fish."
人魚 is the Japanese Kanji, Korean Hanja and Chinese word for "merman" or "mermaid."
It literally means "human fish."
人魚 is a non-gender-specific or unisex word in all three languages.
This single Chinese character means shark.
However, in Japanese, it can refer to the family of goby fish.
鯊 is good if you're looking for shark in Chinese but Japanese may misunderstand it.
鮪 is the Chinese and Japanese character for tuna.
In Chinese, this is usually used to mean the "little tunny" (Euthynnus alletteratus), the most common tuna in the Atlantic Ocean. However, it can refer to any fish of the Thunnus genus.
In Japanese, it can refer to the Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis).
黃 is the single character for the color yellow in Chinese.
In China, yellow is traditionally the color of the emperor. In fact, there was a time when only the emperor could wear yellow clothing, or own yellow pet fish. Note: Goldfish were breed originally in China for the emperor. When the perfect yellow fish was breed, all but the emperor were banned from owning any. Thus a more orange-colored goldfish dominated the market.
This character is not a common selection for a wall scroll. Even if your Chinese surname is Huang (Yellow) or your Korean surname is Hwang (yellow), it's still probably not appropriate.
雙魚座 is the Chinese way to write Pisces (fish) of western astrology. Please note this version is only used in Chinese (see other version if Japanese is your audience).
See Also: Chinese Zodiac
魚座 is the Japanese way to write Pisces (fish) of western astrology. Please note this version is only used in Japanese (see other version if Chinese is your audience).
See Also: Chinese Zodiac
The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji(Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|sakana / gyo / uo||yú / yu2 / yu||yü|
|koi||lǐ / li3 / li|
|lǐ yú / li3 yu2 / li yu / liyu||li yü / liyü|
|jǐn lǐ / jin3 li3 / jin li / jinli||chin li / chinli|
|Without a big net, how can you catch fish?||不撒大網不得大魚|
|bù sā dà wǎng bù dé dà yú
bu4 sa1 da4 wang3 bu4 de2 da4 yu2
bu sa da wang bu de da yu
|pu sa ta wang pu te ta yü
|Drain the pond to get all the fish||竭澤而漁|
|jié zé ér yú
jie2 ze2 er2 yu2
jie ze er yu
|chieh tse erh yü
|kin gyo / kingyo||jīn yú / jin1 yu2 / jin yu / jinyu||chin yü / chinyü|
|Teach A Man To Fish||授人以魚不如授人以漁|
|shòu rén yǐ yú bù rú shòu rén yǐ yú
shou4 ren2 yi3 yu2 bu4 ru2 shou4 ren2 yi3 yu2
shou ren yi yu bu ru shou ren yi yu
|shou jen i yü pu ju shou jen i yü|
|bān jī yú
ban1 ji1 yu2
ban ji yu
|pan chi yü
|Year-In Year-Out Have Abundance||年年有餘|
|nián nián yǒu yú
nian2 nian2 you3 yu2
nian nian you yu
|nien nien yu yü
|In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.|
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.
All of our calligraphy wall scrolls are handmade.
When the calligrapher finishes creating your artwork, it is taken to my art mounting workshop in Beijing where a wall scroll is made by hand from a combination of silk, rice paper, and wood.
After we create your wall scroll, it takes at least two weeks for air mail delivery from Beijing to you.
Allow a few weeks for delivery. Rush service speeds it up by a week or two for $10!
When you select your calligraphy, you'll be taken to another page where you can choose various custom options.
The wall scroll that Sandy is holding in this picture is a "large size"
single-character wall scroll.
We also offer custom wall scrolls in small, medium, and an even-larger jumbo size.
Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.
There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.
Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.
The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.