Fes­ti­val of Fish

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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

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