On this week’s episode of Pond Stars: Fat Koi Slim, Greg Wittstock, Ed Beaulieu, and Brian Helfrich are challenged with building a new home for some very large koi. Aiming to complete the job in just four days, the Pond Stars have quite a bit of work cut out for them. Not only must they excavate the area and bring in thousands of pounds of stone to “rock out” the pond, they must also add a waterfall and jet system for the koi. On the last day of the build, they will fill the pond, landscape it, and introduce to the koi to their new, wild backyard. Why do people love their koi enough to build them such amazing homes? It might be their history and legends.
Koi is the Japanese word for carp, a fish that was brought to Japan from China; though some sources believe the fish may have originated in Persia. It is the Japanese, however, who bred the fish to sport the bright colors we recognize today. Japanese farmers in Niigata built ponds to raise koi for food during harsh winters. Noticing color mutations, the farmers began to breed the most interesting fish for pets in separate ponds. Today, there are over 20 different types of koi, each varying in coloration and scale patterns.
The Legend of the Koi Turned Dragon
Before being bred for color morphs, the Chinese revered the fish for thousands of years. In fact, the carp was the embodiment of perseverance in many stories. One legend tells that dragons are either born as dragons or are transformed from carp. In order for a carp to become a dragon, it must leap up the waters of a waterfall known as the “Dragon’s Gate.” Many carp gather below the falls, but only a few succeed in getting over the falls to the higher waters above. The story says that those which preserve and leap through the fall become dragons. It has become a popular metaphor. In fact, scholars who passed triennial literary examinations were said to have “passed the Dragon Gate”.
The Symbol of Children’s Day
In Japan, koi are also thought to symbolize courage and strength. “Koinobori,” koi windsocks, streamers, and banners can be seen flying in Japan from April through early May. The koi are in honor of Children’s Day on May 5. Originally, similar banners were used by samurai warriors on the battlefield and were often adorned with carp. Today, all of the Koinobori are decorated with the fish. Families traditionally have flown koinobori to honor their sons, but today all of the children in the household are often honored by flying a koinobori for each child.
Koi as Body Art
Today, koi is often seen in tattoo art. Those who sport koi ink all have their own interpretations of the symbolism, but koi is meaningful to many. As well as a symbol of strength and perseverance, sometimes a pair of koi positioned in a yin-yang symbol is used to symbolize good luck for a happy marriage. A long-lived fish (30 years or more), koi is also sometimes a symbol of longevity. Of course, to some, these gorgeous fish are simply a symbol of beauty.
It is no surprise that koi is a popular fish in water features. They quickly learn to approach people with food, making koi easy to view and enjoy as pets. And to many people, they represent traits we all aspire to have.
Tune in tonight at 10P on Nat Geo WILD!