It was my honor to meet and photograph the Haung brothers, both at their home and on the Li River in Guilin, China.In about 1948 the eldest brother Yue Ming (now 86) and following thereafter the youngest brother Yue Chuan (now 79) learned the ways of the Cormorant fisherman.An ancient fishing technique where cormorant birds are trained to dive for fish and return their catch to their master’s raft. If not for the snare tied around the bird’s neck – the cormorant would swallow it’s catch whole.The brothers lived on a houseboat until 1978 at which time the local government gave fishermen land. They built a home on this property and still live in it today. It is modest, reachable only by boat and meals are cooked over campfire.Fishing was a way of life until the late 1990’s. Unfortunately, Cormorant fishing has become a lost source of income but the art form still remains. River pollution, motorized boats and electric rod fishing have made it hard for the birds to successfully fish.
A little piece of Heaven on Earth is right here in Guilin, China. Unspoiled by development. Peaceful.
Sunrise on the Li River where the karst rock formations rise from the soil like the backs of sleeping dinosaurs.Meet Mr. Haung – 61 years old and considered amongst the youngest to know the ancient ways of the cormorant fishermen. Sadly, these days a mostly extinct fishing method. River pollution, mass fishing with electrical charges and motorized boats have depleted the fish population.
The cormorant bird – trained to dive into the water, capture a fish in its bill and dutifully return it to the raft. If not for the snare tied around the birds neck it would swallow the catch whole.The raft – long and sturdy. Mr. Haung splashed the water for effect. The birds accustomed to the rocking commotion on the raft remain unfazed.The art of cast net fishing – the large net is meticulously coiled in his left hand while an edge of the net is secured between his teeth and the remainder grasped in he right hand. Winding up like pro golfer, whilst swinging the net, the net is released high into the air. The splash – circular in formation – is a testament to his skill.
Traveling through picture perfect Guilin in China we met Mr. Xu. In the dark of the morning, he and his water buffalo walked over an hour to get to work – arriving just before sunrise.The role of the water buffalo is rapidly changing with the onset of modern machinery and China approving the use of credit – payments over time. More and more the buffalo is becoming a household pet.
Timeless images of Asia wouldn’t be the same if a farmer posed with his tractor…
We visited Mrs. Zhang in Longtan Ancient Village in Yangshuo County, Guilin, China. A retired farmer, now widowed (approx. 8 years) and childless.
She lives independently, cooking and caring for her home with her niece and nephew providing groceries. It’s not an easy life with modern day conveniences. Cooking requires a wood fire and the bathroom has no running water.
A church pew type wooden bench that sits perpendicular to her front door and she and her two lady friends pass the day visiting – as they were upon our arrival. Watching others playing cards is enjoyable as well.
A proud woman, she insisted on sitting tall with a pensive look and I found her most adorable when I could get her to smile – capturing her youthful past in her twinkling eyes.
A large bag of recently made dried persimmons and sweet potatoes rested on the long wooden farm table. Upon leaving, with her infectious girlish smile, she filled bags for us to share.
Meet Mrs. Pan – she is 56 years old, lives with her parents in their ancestral family home along with her son and grandson in Dazhai Village – in the foothills of the Longji Rice Terraces in Guilin, China.
Normally when a daughter marries she moves into her husband’s family home. Since Mrs. Pan is an only child she lives with her parents so that she may help care for them.
Mrs. Pan is a Yao ethnic minority – famous for having the longest hair in the world. Women only cut their hair once in a lifetime – when they are 18. The cut hair is kept and made into a hair extension – perhaps saved for when they marry. As years pass the women also collect their hair that falls out during combing and washing to make an additional extension. These two hair extensions are added to the hair on her head to create cultural and symbolic hair style.
They hair is worn in two different ways. If a women has been married it is worn in a bun in the front of her head. If she is single there is no bun.
I tried to learn what Mrs. Pan’s feelings were about cutting her hair at 18. It was something that was normal and feelings are not something that is talked about or shared within their culture.
Since we left Guilin I was about to google more information about their hair growing tradition. It seems that they wash their hair with the left over rice water.
In the first couple of photos you can see her extension hanging on the fence.
Meet great grand mother Pan – a Yao. Yao people are an ethnic minority group that live in the mountainous terrain in Southern China. The Pan family lives in Dazhai, a village in the foothills of the Longji RiceTerraces.
Mrs. Pan is in her 80’s, married to a man 4 years her junior. She has a daughter, grandson and great grandson. They are farmers and help out in their daughter’s restaurant.
Their house is simple. The living area has a table, a few chairs, a wash basin, bags of rice, corn, peppers and supplies for their animals which live under their floor boards.
We were treated to a home cooked meal prepared on an open flame on the kitchen floor. An experience to behold – so far removed from our modern kitchens at home.