THE DONGTING LAKE PEOPLE

 

 
During a recent visit to my hometown of Yueyang in China’s central Hunan province, I met a fisherman while buying fish and was invited to his home–a boathouse in eastern parts of the nearby Dongting Lake, known as China’s second largest lake. It turned out that he was a member of the Dongting Lake people, a community of around 10,000 people who have lived for generations by fishing in the vast body of water.

Scattered in remote parts of the lake and therefore largely unknown to the outside world, it is essentially a subordinated and marginalized community. Faced with circumstances including dramatic lake shrinkage, displacement and ageing, this community has been struggling to adapt to changes and their traditional way of life is rapidly falling apart.My subsequent visits also revealed a vast spiritual world nurtured by folklore and myths and guided by a strong sense of community and shared rituals.
 

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