Hai Au

A koi pond is a stunning and soothing addition to homes and gardens.

In feng shui, water is a key element, believed to promote positive energy flow and bring prosperity. That concept has influenced many traditioanl Asian home designs, where a garden with a water feature is highly prized. One of the most refined styles, found prominently in Japan, is the koi pond. Stocked with colorful ornamental fish, a well-maintained koi pond is a source of pride and a soothing and serene addition to a home or public space.

Koi are ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp bred for special colors. While the practice dates back to ancient China, it was taken to current levels of aesthetic sophistication starting in the 1820s in the town of Ojiya in Niigata Prefecture on the northern island of Honshu. There are more than 20 named varieties, with pronounced differences in coloration, patterning, and scalation. Perhaps the most prized variety is Kohaku, white-bodied fish with red markings along their tops, giving them an appearance similar to the Japanese flag.

In Japan, koi are known as the symbol of prosperity, successes and good luck and there are often schools of red, gold and white koi swimming in clear ponds at major landmarks. Visitors can buy snacks to feed the koi and love posing by the pond to take some photos of the “national fish” of Japan.

The practice has found its adherents in Vietnam as well. In Hanoi, a renowned example is the koi pond of Bach Vi Thien, president of the Ha Dong Antiques Club. He specializes in car tires, but is also a fan of exotic fish and created in his villa a spectacular Japanese garden with huge cedar and willow trees and a pond modeled after those in Kyoto.

Another koi aficionado, Haiphong-based Nguyen Anh Tuan, says that the fish are very friendly and loyal. Koi will rush to the pond’s edge when their owner appears, and can even be petted in the water.

Koi, however, are not a casual hobby. They can be shockingly expensive – some rare koi have sold for over $2 million. Koi can be also be a lifetime relationship – many live for decades, and some have been rumored to live well over 100 years. One koi, named Hanako, was reported to have lived to the incredible age of 226. But to their fans, koi are more than mere pets or decoration – they are living, swimming works of art.