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Thread: How Times Change: Koi History

  1. #11
    Jumbo RobF's Avatar
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    Porcelain from the Ming era with carp. My expertise in this area is non-existent but these show that carp were being depicted in Chinese porcelain prior to 1600.

    This covered jar with a carp design is a piece of porcelain from the Jiajing period of the Ming Dynasty in China, currently located in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana. Created between 1522 and 1566, it is exceptionally large and elaborate and would have been a source of great prestige for its owner.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covered_jar_with_carp_design

    The second one was for sale in 2009 for around a quarter of a million pounds.

    The page is scanned from Nishikigoi Mondo.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails How Times Change: Koi History-ming-carp-jar.jpg   How Times Change: Koi History-ming-carp-jar-3.jpg   How Times Change: Koi History-nishikigoi-mondo-page-42.pdf  

  2. #12
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    I have read references to early sales of colored carp in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to noblemen for their estate garden ponds. Also colored carp were sold and bartered between families in Niigata area a bit earlier. Sales outside of Niigata area were rare because of difficulties transporting live fish until roads and especially rail service was available. I believe carp were raised for food much earlier with the most obvious source being China perhaps as early as the 12th century but there is evidence that additional carp might have also been introduced from Europe as early as the 1600's.

    One of the most compelling parts about koi history for me are the different versions and lack of specific documented evidence prior to the 20th century.
    Disclosure:These opinions are based on my experience and conversations with persons I consider accomplished koi keepers and do not reflect the viewpoint of any organization.

  3. #13
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Reviewing some histories of the occupation period, I have not come across anything helpful about the British Commonwealth force promoting trade or fisheries.

    I did enjoy refreshing myself on the land reforms imposed during the occupation. In very un-American style, the U.S. occupation forced landowners to give up their holdings and gave peasant farmers the right to purchase land they had tilled. Rice production is the main focus of data, since rice is the most important crop. But, the same re-distribution occurred throughout agricultural areas. Initially, land was priced affordably for the tenant farmers to purchase. The prices were basically frozen, while inflation soared. By 1950, a tenant farmer could purchase a quarter-acre paddy for a little more than the price of a carton of cigarettes. Before WWII, no tenant farmer could be expected to save enough to purchase so much land. These were subsistence farmers. In one town in Niigata Prefecture, rice paddy land that had cost $60 per tan was priced at less than $2.

    The impact was far more than re-distributing wealth. It altered the psychology of the rural people.

    I have mentioned before a book I highly recommend for those interested in Japanese history in the first half of the 20th century. It is 'Toshe, a Story of Village Life in Twentieth Century Japan' written by Simon Partner. It is a history that focuses on the life of one woman who grew up in Niigata (but not in the mountains, closer to Niigata City on the coast). It gives a sense of what the lives of ordinary rural Japanese was like. Keeping in mind that the mountain areas where koi originated were more impoverished, but not necessarily as closely watched by authorities, one can perhaps imagine what life was like for those who created koi in the early years of the century.
    Last edited by MikeM; 03-21-2013 at 09:04 AM. Reason: typo

  4. #14
    Jumbo RobF's Avatar
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    way back when

    Common Carp’s (Cyprinus carpio) introduction into Japan has numerous instances and multiple time frames. Longfins in the late 1980s via the Emperor (and another less publicized introduction around this time is chronicled in Koishi). 1904 mirror carp University of Tokyo. Quite possibly during the Portuguese presence in the 1600’s (from China, Korea or even Europe). The timing of these more or less overt introductions may very well bookend any number of undocumented additions between 1600 and 1900. But, and I like bit buts, there is this from Tsuneo Nakajima, a Japanese scientist specializing in Osteoarchelogy (bones and teeth). Fossil evidence places Common Carp in lake Biwa earlier than 2000 BC! He and others have published multiple papers supporting this contention. I am posting only the first page of a more recent onr where they expand to China (but summarize Japan in the first paragraphs). The full version is available by subscription (if you want it a librarian can get it and others for you for free). Just how Common Carp would have made it to Japan so early (during or prior to Jomon seafaring) is not addressed.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails How Times Change: Koi History-common-carp-japan-prior-200-bc.pdf  

  5. #15
    Jumbo RobF's Avatar
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    a thought

    So how did Common Carp get to post-glacial Japan? One thing that I had not previously considered and have not seen discussed, but seems almost obvious upon reflection is that maybe they just swam over there! But that would be across open sea, right? Not really if we are talking about after the last ice age. Contrary to the usual thinking Cyprinus carpio is not strictly speaking a fresh water species. True Cc is not anadromous, like salmon, but Balon says of Cc: “The closest wild ancestor of the common carp originated in the drainages of the Black, Caspian and Arial Seas and dispersed west as far as the Danube River and east into Siberia.” Cc is quite tolerant of salt water and so can spread among rivers connected by seas. Since Nakajima’s fossil teeth place Cc on the eastern coast of China in post-glacial times and because Japan was connected by a land bridge to mainland Asia during glaciations common carp quite possibly could have just moved along the coast river to river to Japan (much like how, it is hypothesized that, humans followed a coastline to North America) .

  6. #16
    Tategoi hewhoisatpeace's Avatar
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    That's certainly a different story of Japanese carp than I've heard before.

  7. #17
    Jumbo RobF's Avatar
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    First of all I apologize for hijacking Mike’s thread. And next let me say that I don’t anything about the introduction of carp to Japan other than what I have read.

    In Nishikigoi Mondo the authors seem to assume that goi were always there, in Lake Biwa for example. As I say, although I haven’t read all of Nakajima’s papers the ones I have read, mostly centered on Lake Biwa, make no mention of the introduction of Cc. If one accepts his identification of Cc pharyngeal teeth at Jomon era sites (2000+ BC) it would be hard to make a case that humans brought Cc to Japan back then. With Jomon technologically it would have been challenging and what would have been the motive? Fish farming in Japan was over a thousand years into the future. Of course, one could speculate that the Jomon were accustomed to eating common carp in China or Korea and so brought the fast growing fish they knew to Japan. Maybe they had depleted the Japanese rivers and lakes of slower growing native species. This was the justification used in the 1800’s when Cc was introduced to the rivers of America.

    Balon:
    http://210.38.138.6:9020/editor/UploadFile/Origin%20and%20domestication%20of%20the%20wild%20c arp%20Cyprinus%20carpio%20from%20Roman%20gourmets% 20to%20the%20swimming%20flowers%20.pdf

  8. #18
    Oyagoi Eugeneg's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=hewhoisatpeace;205443]That's certainly a different story of Japanese carp than I've heard before.

    Myself as well. I looked up Koi Kichi
    There are records to indicate that carp were reared for food 5 centuries BC
    Carp were introduced by the crusaders to Central Europe .
    First documented record of carp in Japan was during the 8th Century.
    Doitsu carp did not get to Japan till Aug 1904 where 8 survived from 40 shipped.

    On my last trip to Poland I rented a car in Belin and saw numerous ponds and some peple netting fish.
    They were Polish and claimed that their family had cut peat there for over a 1000 years. Before the war they supplied the Berlin Jewish market. explaining that the Polish Kings brough in Jewish merchants and tradsmen and their family developed the fish with no scales. They pointed out some ponds that had clusters of posts sticking out of them and told me that their grandfather had put them there. Every winter they would drag dead animals over the ice and place them on the posts. In the spring the flies would come and lay their eggs producing magots which the fish would eat and they had the fattest fish.
    They had never heard of koi but were ready to become koi farmers.
    Regards
    Eugene

  9. #19
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    We may never know the true origin of carp in Japan. However it occurred, to the people involved it was not so important as to record the moment. For me, the more interesting question is why development of ornamental fish occurred in Asia (and koi in particular in Niigata), and not in the West. Aquaculture can be traced back at least to the Romans, so it was not due to a lack of opportunity. It seems to reflect a fundamental cultural difference. The development of goldfish is even more strange. The idea of raising carp for food and selecting pretty ones to breed makes sense. Focusing on the small goldfish and developing all sorts of deformities is strange to my mind.

  10. #20
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    Carp pretty much were transported all over the world except for the extreme area of the poles. Their extreme hardiness made their transportation much easier than most other kinds of fish. In america they moved with the westward expansion and are considered today a rough non desirable species. In Europe and Asia they are an important food fish.

    I am much less interested in the expansion of wild food type carp than the isolated development of colored carp and eventually Nishikigoi in the isolated area of Niigata Japan. My current thinking about how early colored carp were created is this. The Niigata area was isolated in winter by the high snow levels making travel difficult if not impossible. The initial decision to keep some parent carp alive all winter was likely a way to save money and get a jump start on the next years breeding season. If you are going to try to keep a few carp alive all winter it makes sense to select a few that seemed a bit special with some brighter colors, etc. Once isolated and line breeding began the most unusual and colorful few examples were kept to produce the next generation of food carp until at some point someone decided they had additional value beyond being steamed with ginger on rice. I have read that a few hundred years ago there was a great drought in that area and the stream and rivers dried up. A small lake/pond was used to keep the parent carp alive from a number of family carp farms. This would have farther isolated and concentrated a pool of genetics that had brighter colors and even primitive "patterns". When the drought ended the surviving carp were reclaimed by the families that placed the fish into the lake/pond. There were among these survivors a number of carp that had red bellies and it is believed by many of the older breeders that these red bellied magoi were the foundation stock for today's nishikigoi.

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