On the shores of Chagan Lake, China’s seventh largest freshwater lake in northwestern Jilin province, lives the world’s oldest fishing tribe, which has preserved the skills and traditions of winter hunting for more than a thousand years.
Fishing-related objects can be seen everywhere in the village, such as nets drying in courtyards and on rooftops, and fish-themed paper cut-outs decorating the windows alongside poetic couplets framing the doors.
Winter fishing on Chagan Lake began during the Liao (916-1125) and Jin (1115-1234) dynasties. Every year from December to the following January, the spectacle provides a feast for northern people and attracts tourists from all parts of China to participate and celebrate.
When the lake is covered by thick snow on its surface, groups of fishermen get their ice chisels, horse-drawn winches and fishing nets ready for the month-long hunting season.
After a traditional ceremony to express their gratitude for the grace of the lake and to pray for a good catch, the fishermen led by a head man choose a fishing location, then drill more than 400 holes-leaving about 60 meters between each-around the location in the frozen lake and place a 2,000-meter-long net underwater. A couple of hours later, with the rotation of a horse-drawn winch being used to pull the net out of the ice holes, hundreds of thousands of flapping fish spill out upon the ice, freezing solid in just a few minutes.