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Winter fishing: Taicang's bracing Chinese New Year tradition
Tucking into a delicious steamed fish is a highlight of Chinese New Year for many families in Taicang, Jiangsu province. But first, a few brave locals in nearby Yongfeng village have to carry out an ancient tradition that is not for the faint-hearted: Plunging into the village's icy lake to catch the fish that will fill tables across Taicang on Jan 28.

A band of intrepid fishermen gathered in Yongfeng at 8:30 am on Jan 15, braving the biting wind and freezing waters as they worked their way across the village's old 2,000-mu (133-hectare) natural lake, which has been converted into a modern agriculture park featuring 1,000 mu of fishponds.

The group harvested some 40,000 kilograms of fish over the course of the day, which was whisked away to markets as soon as it was labeled for sale.


The tradition of winter fishing in Taicang dates back several hundred years, and this year's good catch has come after years of experience. Even as Taicang has strived to build itself into a modernized city, locals have also sought to preserve tradition.


Fish is also a must for families during the Chinese New Year holiday for the auspicious symbolism it boasts. The Chinese word for fish, yu, is a homonym for the word for surplus.

Surplus is a particularly important word in China during the New Year holiday, since Chinese traditionally believe that you can make more in the next year if you have managed to save something at the end of the previous year.

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