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April 30, 2010

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Fisherfolk frolic and pray for good catch

UNDER fluttering yellow pennants decorated with dragons, the South China Fishing Boat (Net-Boat) Fair each year seeks blessings from the gods for safety and good catches.

The traditional folk spectacle and revelry was held this year on April 11 on Liansidang Lake near Jiaxing in northern Zhejiang Province. It lies about 100 kilometers from Shanghai.

Every year in late spring, thousands of boats of all kinds tie up along the north bank of Liansidang Lake for several days. They include fishing boats, simple boats from which fishermen just cast nets, boats for burning joss sticks, foot paddle boats and larger vessels.

There are sacrifices on the water and in a temple as well as dragon boat races. This year 80 teams participated.

All boats were decorated with pennants and banners embroidered with golden dragons. Flags are planted before Liuwang Temple, honoring King Liuwang who helped wipe out locusts, taught people how to fish and then drowned in the lake.

The boats, sometimes called "silk-net boats," are common in the waters of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. The boats have two oars and are commonly paddled with the feet.

In ancient times, fishermen would make offerings before the shrine of Liuwang and burn incense.

After praying in the temple, fishermen make offerings of abundant food on their small boats. These typically feature pig heads, pig feet, chicken and fish.

The Liansidang net-boat fair has been listed as an intangible cultural heritage of Zhejiang Province.

Nearby Wangjiangjing Town has invested 10 million yuan (US$1,45 million) in renovating the area, according to local government.


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