Hokusai

Two Carp in Waterfall (1834)

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One carp leaps up the waterfall, while another swims back downstream, in this striking, long composition.

The carp carries cultural significance in Japan, symbolizing strength and perseverance, deriving from ancient Chinese beliefs that only the carp were able to reach the heights of the Yellow River and pass through the symbolic Five Cataracts. Upon passing the cataracts, some carp even managed to leap through the Dragon's Gate and transformed into dragons themselves.

The carp streamers that you may be familiar with are still flown outside houses in Japan in May, during Boys' Festival, as an enduring symbol of rites of passage.