Most people believe the Koi Fish originated in Niigata, Japan, however fossils of koi 20 million years old, found in Southern China may prove otherwise.
Originally, Koi came to Japan via Chinese invaders. The fish established a foothold, and the Japanese began farming them for food. About the 1800s, when a farmer noticed a Koi swimming in the rice ponds with some pretty color, they began to separate the fish out from the food stock, and started breeding for koi color.
Careful selection of the most colorful koi bred, crossbred, and line bred, over hundreds of years eventually created the amazing color varieties of Nishikigoi that we know and love today. Nishikigoi means beautiful carp in Japanese language. Niigata, Japan is recognized as the birthplace of the beautiful jewels we now love and celebrate today.
As the Japanese farmers spent time with the huge colorful, inquisitive koi, they were impressed by the strength and perseverance of the fish, and legends began springing up about them.
They were used in art, to celebrate victories in their daily lives, and to adorn their bodies with permanent ink to express their fascination and love for the fish. In Japanese, “Koi” means love, another example of how much this strong fish impressed the Japanese nation.
While Japanese legends about koi are abound, my personal favorite is, “The Dragon Gate”. The legend goes something like this;
There were thousands of koi swimming up the Yellow River in Japan. They swam for a very long time upriver. The huge group eventually reached a tall, and pounding waterfall. Most of the Koi were scared away by the great height and noise of the waterfall, and turned back down river. However, three hundred and sixty of the strongest Koi, were determined to reach the top of the waterfall.
For hundreds of years, these brave, strong Koi tried to jump to the top of the waterfall, their beautiful, shiny scales flashing, and winking in the sunshine. Some local demons, attracted by the splashing, and shining of the beautiful koi, amused themselves by raising the height of the waterfall, to make it more difficult for the Koi. Each time a fish would get close to the top, the demons would raise the waterfall higher.
After some time passed, one Koi finally made it to the top. The Gods rewarded the koi by turning him into a beautiful, shiny, Golden Dragon. He now spends his time chasing among the clouds in the heavens, gathering pearls of wisdom.
Since then, when a Koi makes it to the top of the waterfalls in the Yellow River, he is rewarded by being transformed into a Dragon.
Life Is Short, Enjoy Koi!
The Pond Digger