Festival of Fish
Chagan Lake, which means “white holy lake” in Mongolian, is located in Songyuan City in Northeast China’s Jilin Province. More than 400 square kilometers in size, it’s one of China’s top 10 freshwater lakes and features an ice fishing culture 2,000 years old. The annual Chagan Lake Winter Fishing Festival, which lasts from mid-december to the end of January, recalls these old winter fishing traditions. An ancient ceremony – “offering sacrifices to the lake, waking up the net” – is held on the first of the festival. To ensure a good yield, the ceremony includes several activities – placing offerings on the ice, performing a shaman dance, singing songs and lighting a sacred fire.
Fishermen drill holes through the two-meter-thick ice and insert their nets or fishhooks. Horses operate primitive wooden winches to draw in the nets, and the freshly caught fish can be enormous. The nets are specially designed so that only fully-grown adults are caught, which guarantees the future of the industry.
Chagan Lake set a Guinness World Record in 2006 when a single net yielded an astonishing 104,500 kilograms of fish, and broke this in 2009 with 168,000 kilograms. Ice fishing here is listed as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage of China.
A bird’s eye view of the 16th Fishing and Hunting Cultural Tourism Festival, which draws thousands of visitors every year and makes the lake a popular tourist destination in winter