Source: Xinhua
Editor: huaxia
2023-07-23 15:08:00
HONG KONG, July 23 (Xinhua) — In the midst of Hong Kong’s bustling cityscape, there are still pockets of traditional fishing villages that offer a glimpse into a way of life that is rapidly changing.
Nestled in the lush greenery of Aberdeen Promenade in Hong Kong is a temporary structure that resembles the houseboats of yore. The Fishing Culture Museum, as it is called, showcases exquisite models of dragon boats, colorful fishing hats, display panels with historic photos of Aberdeen Harbor, and a cloth signboard at the entrance.
This “mini” museum might be small, but the old photos on its walls bear witness to the fishing boats that once anchored in Aberdeen Harbor and the lives of the “on-water people.”
Aberdeen fishing village, which dates back to the 14th century, was once one of the four largest fishing villages in Hong Kong. In its heyday during the 1970s, the village was home to over 50,000 fishermen. Back then, the sampans were not just tools for fishing, but also the homes of families.
“Until the mid-20th century, thousands of fisher families still lived on houseboats at sea. But now, most of them have been replaced by yachts and motorized fishing boats,” said Pang Kit-ling, the curator of the Fishing Culture Museum.
Through the exhibition, Pang said she hopes to preserve the most glorious era of Hong Kong’s fishing industry and the maritime culture of the fishermen. “I hope that memories of savoring the taste of Aberdeen’s seafood while admiring the scenery of typhoon shelters will not disappear with time,” Pang said.
Chan Chi-ho, a 63-year-old native of Aberdeen, shares the same wish. He grew up on a fishing boat and has worked in fishing, fish processing, and export.
“Many people nowadays do not understand the fishing culture of Hong Kong. Some even go to Tsukiji market in Japan to visit the seafood market, but we have such a place in Aberdeen,” said Chan, feeling somewhat disappointed.
To prevent the loss of Hong Kong’s fishing culture, Chan has been serving as a volunteer fish market tour guide for the South District Tourism and Cultural Festival for over a decade. He explains the changes and development of the fish market and reveals the mysterious side of Aberdeen Harbor.
“Although the once-bustling typhoon shelter is no longer the same, and fishing on houseboats is gradually declining, some things, if not well-preserved, cannot be reproduced,” Chan said.
From the grandfather’s generation going out to sea to fish, to the father’s generation selling the fish, to Chan’s generation taking over the family business, the family has witnessed the changes of the fishing industry’s glorious period, the seafood market’s heyday, and the fishermen’s transition to “going ashore.”
Chan said the changes in fishing methods reflect the changes technology has brought to traditional industries.
“When I was young and went out to sea, my mother used to listen to the movement of fish groups with her ears to determine their location. Nowadays, instruments can detect the type and precise location of fish, shrimp, and crab groups from far away, and they can be automatically captured in different ways, which saves time and effort,” said Chan.
Around 1990, due to his father’s retirement, Chan took over the family business and switched to seafood trading and wholesale. According to him, the mainland has a large population and market, and the increasing frequency of Hong Kong’s seafood import and export trade with the mainland has filled the void left by the decline of Hong Kong’s fishing industry.
“Hong Kong lacks competitiveness in artificial aquaculture technology, and there is a shortage of fishermen, but the mainland has provided significant support in this area,” he said.
As times have changed, many former boat dwellers from Hong Kong have gradually moved ashore, bidding farewell to their waterborne lives. Chan Fu-ming, born in the 1950s, comes from a long line of Hong Kong boat dwellers. His generation of fishermen has ushered in a new era of settling down on land.
Despite his transition to land, he still works in the fishing industry. He assists fishermen in resolving issues that arise onshore and advocates for their rights and interests. Additionally, he devotes himself to promoting dragon boat culture.
The sea has been a bountiful gift that has allowed fishermen to thrive for generations. Chan Fu-ming’s deep attachment to the ocean is evident when he says, “my family and I still reside nearby after going ashore, and we hope that what we see around us are the boats and that sea we remember.”
He often reminisces about his life at sea. “Although it was hard work, hauling in the nets and seeing the fish, shrimp, and crabs leap onto the boat can bring joy that money could never buy.”