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Timeless River

I’m Huang You Cai. I’m 72 years old. I’m a fisherman of the Li Jiang River. My father, grandfather, and my great-grandfather were also fishermen. For hundreds of years, the Li Jiang River has been our income source, our river of life. Here, we fish using the rafts we built by connecting five bamboo trees together for each and the cormorant birds we trained at an early age. In China, dynasties have come and gone, regimes and rulers changed, but our fishing method has never changed. I’m fishing the same way my grandfathers used to fish back in the day.

As the day rises, we go out on the river with our bamboo rafts and cormorants. I tie a thread to the throats of my six birds who have landed on the sticks of the raft, so that they don’t swallow the fish that they catch. Upon arrival at the chosen fishing site, I dance (at least I think it’s like dancing) by gently jumping on my feet. This is the “get ready, fishing is about to start” command to the birds. Then I start singing by imitating their shrieks. As this may be a sign to start fishing for them, for me it’s my cry to the Li River for an abundant catch. Even if it’s the long stick I use to hit the water making the fish easier targets for the birds by the fish’s responding erratic movements, I think it’s my abundance song to the Li River that has a larger impact. To greet this ceremonial fishing trip every day with the rising sun is a magical journey. A feast that makes me feel like my ancestors are beside me.

Huang You Cai
Yangshou, Guilin, China, 22 August 2018

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