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Besides the dress, Cixi also wears a lot of jewelry to finish off her outfit in style. In the middle of her pearl cape she wears a goldfish-shaped ornament. Which species it is, is hard to tell since the fish isn’t painted in a detailed way. The closest guess would be the Dragon Eye goldfish. These goldfish are native to China and have been kept since the early 1700s. Goldfish in China were bred from wild Crucian carp. Their domestication started as early as the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). The long history of goldfish breeding explains why the goldfish are so intertwined in Chinese culture. The pronunciation for the word goldfish (jinyu 金魚) in Chinese is a homophone for the word gold (jin 金) and jade (yu 玉) or surplus in money (jinyu 金餘), both in which Cixi didn’t lack. It is more likely that she wore it for aesthetic purposes as the goldfish has a long history in the Forbidden City. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Emperor Wanli (r. 1573-1620) was known to have large basins for fish breeding and held goldfish competitions during the Mid-Autumn Festival. During the second half of the Qing dynasty (1636-1911), goldfish were admired by emperors and nobility. The hype became so big that the imperial palace hired servants specially for taking care of the fish. During the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735), goldfish were even presented as tribute to the court. Besides fish breeding, goldfish were also used as motifs in paintings, jewelry, fabric of clothing and many other everyday products. Till this day people still continue to breed goldfish and buy them for their auspicious symbolic meaning. Next time you see a goldfish, remember their rich history.