About 4% of our Canadian neighbours are of Chinese descent, and we want to celebrate Chinese New Year by shedding some light on their intimate relationship with fishing and the sea.
Fishing very well could have originated in China. The oldest (40,000 years) modern human to regularly consume freshwater fish was found in East Asia. During (and prior to) this time, mankind was still in the hunter-gatherer phase of life with constant moving around. Fishing was responsible for providing a reliable and steady source of food, allowing for permanent settlements: A crucial step in human evolution.
Even Chinese creation legends include 3 semi-mystical people who taught the art of writing, hunting, trapping, and fishing, which introduced the onset of civilization (2800–2600 B.C.). Fishing has been ingrained in Chinese society ever since.
In Chinese mythology, the word for "fish", yu is a homophone for "abundance" and "affluence". You’ll find many charms and decor with the image of a carp. Why? It represents overcoming a barrier (rites of passage) of which there are many throughout the span of a Chinese man or woman’s life.
Traditional Chinese fishing was a family business, with secrete techniques passed along to the next generation. These 3 in particular managed to stand the test of time and are still current practices.
Chinese fishermen would (and still do as a tourist attraction) train birds to fly over lakes and rivers, catch a fish, and return them to shore. This is somewhat similar to training a hound to fetch a duck while hunting.
Ice Fishing with Nets
A thousand year old tradition involves drilling hundreds of holes in the ice about 60 metres apart. Huge nets are dipped into the water and, after a few hours are drawn out by a horse-drawn winch carrying hundreds of thousands of fish with it.
Farming of fish began in China around 3500 B.C. with the common carp. This lasted until around 618-907 A.D. when the Emperor of the Tang Dynasty outlawed the practice because the word “carp” sounded too similar to the Tang name. A happy turn of events, this introduced the concept of growing multiple species in the same pond.
If you’re not familiar with Chinese New Years, here are a few things you need to know in order to appreciate the day.
- New Year, or the “Spring Festival” begins on February 5th and ends on the 19th.
- The Chinese have their own zodiac with animals assigned to each year. This year, 2019, is the Year of the Pig.
- Like most New Year celebrations around the world, this event marks the end of the coldest days and ushers in the Spring and a prayer to the gods for a rich harvest. But there’s a twist. In mythology, this is also the day that a demon would visit villages and people would hide in their homes. One day, a single boy fought off the demon with a firecracker. The village celebrated the victory with everyone setting off firecrackers. Today, Chinese New Years is the single biggest fireworks event in the entire world.
- “Red Pockets” (red envelopes stuffed with money) are traditionally given to children to pass along Good Luck from elders to children. This practice has evolved to include Bosses passing red pockets to their employees.
- Dumplings are eaten all day every day. Traditionally, breakfast lunch and dinner are all dumplings, no other foods.
- There are tons of traditional desserts served on New Year’s Day. Each of these carry their own symbolism or metaphor.
- There are very particular customs and rules to drinking New Years wine.
- Red is the official decoration colour. This applies to everything from paper and peppers, to lanterns and clothes.
- Historically, girls weren’t allowed to venture outside by themselves. New Years was the one exception to that rule to allow everyone to appreciate the Lantern Festival which marks the end of New Years. This festival, because of this, became to be known as Chinese Valentine’s Day.
Legend Boats is proud to be part of the rich tapestry we call Canada. We're happy to celebrate the New Years with our Chinese neighbours and if you subscribe now, you can help us cheer some of our other multicultural friends throughout the year.
Yours In Boating,