The End is Only the Beginning for
Two Eighty Year Old’s
The Last Cormorant Fishermen
I will tell you what the last cormorant fishermen do now, Chuan and Ming, but first, let's gaze into their
lives. Brothers Hung Yue Chuan (88) and Hung Yue Ming (82) began a life of fishing before the age of ten
in a remote region of the Li River. Both are capable of fishing today, but the river was over-fished. As
young men, they built their homes close to the river and next to each other. In the Hung’s homes were
pictures of not only the current household but also multiple generations. I experienced a lifestyle still
fundamental with kitchen stoves no more than an open fire with a grate. Twelve-foot ceilings helped for
the summer heat; winter demands lots of blankets. The saying “want not need not” is visible. Yue
Chuan has one son and three daughters, and Yue Ming has three daughters and two sons.
Unfortunately, Yue Ming lost his wife due to diabetes two years ago, not much medical care. The male
children follow in their father’s footsteps, but theirs had to leave for work in the city. The most valued
treasure I found in China is the family.
Many may ask, what is Cormorant fishing? The Cormorant is a fishing bird who can spot and dive for
fish. The brothers each have two birds. The birds live by the river and are working companions. They
attach a loose string around their necks and loose enough not to cause any discomfort to the birds. It is
small enough to keep the birds from swallowing big fish and return the fish to the boat as they are
taught. The men would paddle upstream for hours daily on a homemade bamboo raft. Yue Ming and
Yue Chuan had to throw their large fishnets all day. The work is strenuous but provided food and the
needed money. They are true entrepreneurs. Currently, even in their simple lifestyle, it takes about
USD 6,000 annually for survival. This holds true for all the minority villages.
I needed a private guide to take me to non-tourist places during my three-week adventure. Fortunately,
I found Mia Beales of Guilin, she’s lived in China for over nine years. Her life as a guide and professional
photographer has created a close relationship with people in the minority villages as friends. Minorities
are non-Hun and live as mega families.
The next chapter in the Hung family is fascinating. They found a need for tourists and advertisers to
take scenic pictures. Currently they sell their time as models. I was blessed to go past the picture takers
and spend some time with them in their homes. It was amusing, sitting with Yue Ming on his bed, he so
was excited to show his photo album of advertisers. The one series he loved the most was a beautiful
model in a bikini on his boat holding a bottle. I don’t know what the product was, but it looked like
sunscreen. You may see them in magazines in the USA someday; I wouldn’t be surprised.
Additional villages will be featured in subsequent issues of Life in Naples.