SUBSCRIBE TO CHINA
On the map of southern China, western Guangdong Province’s Leizhou Peninsula resembles an elephant’s trunk reaching into the South China Sea to suck in some water. At the north end of the peninsula’s coastline rests a small town called Wuyang.
Against the backdrop of China’s vast territory, it’s a feat for such a small town, with an area of only 81 square kilometers, to even be noticed. Its name cannot be found on the standard map of China. However, the nondescript town has been impressively blessed by Mother Nature with fertile land, abundant resources, and talented residents. Historically, it was home to Lin Zhaotang, Guangdong Province’s only native Zhuangyuan (highest-ranked scholar of the imperial examination), who eventually joined the imperial court of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Across the generations, local fishermen have enjoyed the generosity of the South China Sea.
Unlike fishermen in other coastal places, Wuyang locals use massive nets that span as long as 1,000 meters each. Typically, each coastal village keeps such a massive net that belongs to all villagers collectively.
Operating such a net requires the combined efforts of every man in the village. On the fishing day, a trumpet announces the 5 a.m. hour, calling all male villagers awake. However, most housewives are already up cooking breakfast for their husbands. After eating, the men carry the huge fishnet (mended the previous night by the women) to the coast. At that moment, the first ray of dawn has yet to peek over the horizon, and stars remain twinkling in the sky. Following the crew of fishermen, several eager teenagers attempt to lend a hand.
When they arrive at the beach, the sea breeze blows chilly marine air from the ocean. A brilliant star persists in the eastern sky as it turns lighter and lighter, but the celestial body is actually the planet Venus. As the first rays of the morning sun finally seep over the horizon, the fishermen make final preparations to cast the net.
The net is so huge that it can almost span the entire beach. The fishermen split into two groups, each holding one end of the net, as a boat drags the middle deep into the sea. As soon as the order is given, the men begin reeling in the net. As it contracts, numerous fish and shrimp can be seen leaping out of the water.