Songyuan Municipal People's Government

Chagan Lake- Winter Fishing

The period from the end of December to the beginning of the Spring Festival every year is a prime time for fishermen to conduct large-scale winter fishing. Before the winter fishing, the traditional and magical lake sacrifice ceremony will be held to wake up the lake. As the fishing and hunting activities by ice breaking are fully completed by non-mechanical power, "Winter Fishing in Chagan Lake" is known as the last world wonder by the fishing tribe.

In the cold winter in the past, farmers combated the severe cold by relying on the traditional fishing methods (winter fishing in Chagan Lake) to make a living and multiplying, which is passed down from generation to generation. Even in modern times, winter fishing is just to continue the tradition. In addition, the market demand is large as the Spring Festival is approaching; the fishes are easy to store and transport as the winter temperature in low. It is easier to catch fishes in winter as fishes are hibernated, and the fish tastes rich and fresh as they have grown after summer and autumn.

The winter fishing lasts 40 days or so, and the position for the net fishing every day is very strict. It is said to that the experienced old fisherman is asked to determine the gathering places of fishes. More than 400 small ice holes around the fish school will be chiseled, and the 2,000-meter-long net is gradually stretched into a gigantic "fish enclosure" with the binding post, twisted spear and moving hooks via the ice holes of over 60 meters under the ice layers of 50 cm thick. 

As time passing by, when pieces of large fish nets slowly pulling out from the "Jade Door" -- ice holes, fishermen would wait for the moment that countless fishes moving out from the "Jade Door" by holding the long-handled hooks ... In an instant, one after another tail of "bighead carp", carp, crucian, catfish and grass carp is jumping out from the ice hole in a stream. This is the season of good harvest, and wishing for "surplus year after year" is exactly people’s anticipation for the good life.

Auction of Head Fish

The origin of the head fish of Chagan Lake is not only mysterious and magical, but has a long history.

The head fish of Chagan Lake is not only endowed with the mysterious atmosphere of the emperor, but also the magical spirit of blessing.

People who are fortunate enough to see the head fish from Chagan Lake will be lucky all year long, and can enjoy the auspicious life and the longevity as well.


Culture of Fishing and Hunting

The fishing and hunting civilization in Chagan Lake has a long history, so is the source of winter fishing in Chagan Lake. There are historical records describing that Emperor Shengzong of Liao like to eat ice fish. In the twelfth lunar month of each year, he would lead the civil and military court officials and concubines to travel thousands of miles from Linhuang prefecture of capital to the key military town "Changchun Prefecture" (present ruins of Tahu City) at the bank of Chagan Lake to have the " Chunnaibo " activity until the rein of Emperor Tianzuo. During the period of more than one hundred years, four generations of the emperors of Liao would go to Lake Chagan for " Chunnaibo " every year. They would all “build tent on the ice” of Chagan Lake, and hold the grand "Worshiping, taking fire and sacrificing to lake" ceremony, and fishing by breaking the ice, and prepare the "feast of head fish" with the head fish caught by the emperor, so as to entertain the ministers and envoys. The mysterious octagonal drums are beating the ancient dreams, which not only left the much-told stories of various Liao emperors after visiting Chagan Lake, but also spread the mysterious, magical and sacred Chagan Lake customs such as “taking fire and awaking fishing net by sacrificing to the lake” and fishing by breaking ice.

At present, Chagan Lake in winter has long been silver-coated in one color. However, it is still extremely lively on the lake, and it’s finally the season of harvest for the Qagan Nur fishermen. With the long chanting of sutras, fishermen were dancing the Charma dance, and playing the melodious trumpets as well as wearing various masks ...such is the mystery and spectacular ceremony of Shamanism. With the loud gongs and drums, roaring trumpet, and the ox horn by Lamas, dozens of ethnic leaders, minority ladies with Hada in hands, and dozens of leading fishermen in leather jackets and hats are sacrificing lake and awaking net on the vast ice. "Head of Fishermen" is the leader of the fishing team, and is also the successor and disseminator of fishing and hunting culture. The daily amount of fish is fully dependent on the consideration of fishing points by the head of fishermen. By fishing after selecting points on the ice of 420 square kilometers, Chagan Lake has become the battlefield of experience and wisdom for many heads of fishermen. In the bitterly cold winter, and in the vast scene of ice and dozens of horse winches, hundreds of people are chiseling ice to cast fishing nets, then tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fish jumping out after breaking the ice. Afterwards, tens of thousands of tourists from every corner cheered together. The enthusiasm of catching fish on the icy lake in winter is spread to the peak on the ice surface of Chagan Lake of Jilin Province in the temperature of minus 30 degrees. Despite the vicissitudes, the winter fishing in Chagan Lake remains mysterious, magical and sacred. Today, the traditional and ancient winter fishing custom on Chagan Lake has been listed as the national intangible cultural heritage and has become a business card for Chagan Lake to be influential in the world.

Shaman Dance

Shaman dance, commonly known as "Dancing God", is the dance performed by wizards in the activities such as sacrificial rites, inviting gods and medical treatment. It belongs to the primitive dance of totem worship and religions ideas of animism. So far, it is still reserved in the nationalities in Mongolia, Manchu, Xibe, Hezhen, Daur, Oroqen, Ewenki, Uyghur, Kazak and Kirgiz and so on. Shaman dance is characterized by: all ethnic groups with Shaman dance are located in northern China, and they had or still have the hunting and nomadic economic life. The language belongs to altaic family, and had believed in shamanism.

I. Shamanism and Shaman Dance

Shaman is the generic term for Shamanism wizards. The word of shaman originates from Tungusic language, meaning "excited and crazy dancing people." Shamanism is originated in ancient times. According to historical records, the ancestors of the ancient northern peoples in China such as Sushen, Huns, Wuhuan, Xianbei, Rouran, Tujue, Uighur, and Kirgiz, etc. all had primitive religious activities related to Shamanism. There are different titles of Shamanism wizards in different branches of Altaic family: Man – it is called "Shaman" in Tungus language, and "Oddgen" (also written as Jadgen) or "Boe" in Mongolian, and "Aoyun" or "Bakshi" (or "Bachsi") in Turkic language. Although the titles of wizards are different in various ethnic groups, their forms of activities are basically similar. Therefore, the Shaman has become the generic term for Shamanism wizards. Shamans (wizards) are generally rigorously trained, and they are masters of a variety of spells and skills. Some of them are also skilled in the special Qigong skills such as climbing over the knife ladders and licking the red soldering iron and so on.

Shaman Dance came into being with the primitive religion and its actions are the reflections of the labor life such as the primitive fishing, collection, primitive farming, livestock, etc. from the development stage from matriarchy commune to patriarchal commune. Therefore, we can see traces of primitive clan life and nature worship, totem worship and ancestor worship from the present god robes (apparel), instruments (props) and dancing god (dance performances) of the Shamans.

II. Cultural Characteristics of Shaman Dance

Shaman Dance is the dancing god activity of Shaman and its cultural characteristics are reflected in the fairy tales, libretto of inviting god, drumming and the use of various instruments related to the shamanism. In addition, the different stages of socio-economic development are also reflected in terms of the drum production and the use of instruments.

Shaman costumes are very particular, which retains the traces of the primitive culture of the age of popularity; with the changes of the times and economic development, new explanations for them are made constantly by shamans.

The sacred songs of Shaman Dancing God are mostly verbally passed down, and its lyrics are both the reflection of their national psychology and the description of the image of Shaman Dance. Take the lyric of “Inviting Shalbu (Bird) Elf” of Mongolian Shaman (Boe) on Horqin Grassland for example, Hunger Shaobuzhuogai, beautiful and clever god of bird, hooray. / My precious carriage is for you, take a ride on it, hooray. I dreamed of you in my dreams, and waited for you to walk into me, hooray. / Seeing you flying about in the loss, and finally flying into my soul, hooray. Shaman (Boe) entered into the trance of the unity of god and bird in these lyrics, and simulated the expressions and actions of the god of bird with dance.

Drum plays an important role in Shaman Dance, and it is not only the main instrument but also the main accompaniment musical instrument. Shaman believes that the drum is a carriage, so people can ride on it and fly between heaven and earth; hence the lyric of “My precious carriage is for you, take a ride on it” in the above song of inviting god. Shaman thinks that the drum has a mysterious function, through which the conversations between people and god can be communicated, and a variety of elves can be invited for treatment. Shaman dancing god has rich rhythms of the drum beat. For instance, in the drum beats of Horqin Prairie Mongolian shaman, the beats include 2/4, 3/4, 3/8, 4/8 and 5/8, etc. In the same tune, "2/4 and 3/4, 2/4 and 3/8, 2/4 and 5/8, 3/8 and 4/8 can be used interchangeably.

III. Performance Form of Shaman Dance

Shaman dance (dancing god) is generally divided into the sections including prayer, god invitation, god possession, seeing god off and so on. The content of various shamanic performances, sacred drums used and other instruments (props), god clothing (costumes) can be divided into the following three types:

Firstly, the grasping drums are used, and there are special clothing with all kinds of elves as the ornaments, and there are also wrapped with waist bell. The performance is mainly dominated by the simulated animals, such as the aforesaid Oroqen, Ewenki, Daur, Hezhe and Xibe. Secondly, the single drum is used, and there are special clothing with various forms of performance.

Mongolian shamans wear the biretta with the ornaments such as eagles, sacred tree, etc. There is a red underskirt and the outer cover is with the dress with 16 folds and 24 streamers. There are 9 folds and 12 pieces of bronze mirrors of different sizes from the waist on both sides to the back waist. They would hold the single drum with left hand with small iron hoop at the handle end, and hold the elm drumsticks on the right hand. The ornaments will jingle and tinkle when shamans are dancing. The colorful skirt will wave with dance. When the shaman is dancing for god, there are mostly two people, with one principle and one auxiliary. They are drumming, singing, and dancing. Both of them will walk around the stage with the crossed foot and dance gently and slowly. After the god is possessed, the main shaman put down the single drum, and jump high with stomp in the intense drums beats by another shaman, and then he will perform the leveled step and continuous turn in both left and right sides. Those skilled can even turn for hundred laps or more. Sometimes, they will also play with the sacred artifacts such as double drums, knives and so on. Thirdly, they would use tambourine without special clothing, such as Uyghur, Kazak, Kirgiz and so on.

Although all the dances are added the magical and solemn tones, there are many beautiful dancing postures.

Shaman dance is necessary in the ceremony of "Sacrificing Lake and Awaking Net" in the winter fishing in Chagan Lake. As in the long history, Gorlos bred splendid civilization, and formed different cultural content in different historical periods. After the farming culture entered Gorlos grassland, the population was gradually increasing. In order to solve the problem of human survival, we cannot rely solely on the harvest of one industry, but need to provide products in multiple fields such as animal husbandry, agriculture and fisheries so as to maintain subsistence. In that way, agriculture, fishery and animal husbandry are combined to change the way of life and eating habits of local people. Tibetan Buddhism believed by Mongolians is originated in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Mongolian Plateau. There was no agricultural production in the beginning, and the animal husbandry was more developed, thus beef and mutton become the main source of food. In the central plains area, the agriculture is developed and crops are the main food. Under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism, Mongolians did not eat fish, while the Mongolians in Gorlos not only ate fish but also fish because of the less developed agriculture and animal husbandry in Gorlos. The demands by the increasingly growing population cannot be met by simply relying on farm and pasture products. However, the original population of Chagan Lake had long been living on fishing. There are numerous rivers and lakes locally, and fishery is more developed; thus eating fish has become an inevitable choice for survival. There are two reasons for people in Gorlos to accept fishing and hunting culture: on the one hand, it is for need to survive; on the other hand, it is an impact or change on the faith.

To seek the spiritual comfort, they invited the Lamas to chant the scriptures and pray for the recognition from Buddhism. As a result, the lamas’ chanting of scriptures and the Chama dance of Tibetan Buddhism gradually involved in the process of fishing. Furthermore, they gradually evolved into the ceremonies of "sacrificing lakes" and "awaking the fishing net".

The religions embodied in "sacrificing lakes" and "awaking the fishing net" are the primitive religious shamanism of the ethnic minorities in northern China. Shamanism is the religion of the peoples of the Altaic languages believed in the early stage. Its core is animism, ancestral worship, and natural worship. The "sacrificing lake and awaking the fishing net" in Chagan Lake mainly reflects the natural worship. In the Mongolian nomadic culture, the initial religion was shamanism, so they would worship of nature and beleive that all things are spiritual. Awaking the fishing net reflects the concept of soul -- the fishing net has the will and feelings possessed. Mongolians believe in Tibetan Buddhism, which is in conflict with the culture of hunting and hunting. However, after a certain period, people in Gorlos gradually accepted the fishing and hunting culture and participated in the ceremony of "awaking the fishing net". Finally, they combined "sacrificing lakes" and "awaking the fishing net" together. Therefore, in the "sacrificing lakes and awaking the fishing net" ceremony of the winter fishing in Chagan Lake, people would not only have the Charma dance, but also the Shaman dance as well.