Across China: Former minority fisherman takes next adventure on writing

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-12 17:11:09|Editor: xuxin
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HARBIN, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- As the Spring Festival holiday came to an end, Sun Yumin, 58, made his New Year's resolution -- writing a novel about the fishing life of his people, the Hezhe.

The Hezhes are one of the smallest ethnic minority groups in China with a population of over 5,000. They live mainly by hunting and fishing in the plains in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

In 1945, their population dropped to a mere 300, but later speedy advances in their economic life and health care have brought a population surge.

Witnessing the great changes in their lives, Sun, who loves reading and writing, decided to write about his people and traditions.

In 2018, a film script he wrote got nominated at one of the main film festivals in the country.

"After I graduated from high school, I returned to my hometown and became a fisherman, working with my fellow villagers by traditional methods," Sun said.

The traditional method of rowing was replaced in the 1980s as the local government installed diesel engines on their boats to improve fishing efficiency.

Later, local governments promoted agriculture in the Hezhe-populated areas, and Sun became the first group of villagers to reclaim wastelands.

"We drove two tractors offered by the government through the grasslands where weeds grew almost as tall as a person," Sun said.

During harvest season, Sun and his team packed bagfuls of beans and wheat on large cargo ships sailing afar. Over the years, they have reclaimed hundreds of hectares of lands and have become wealthier, as many bought agricultural machines or built new houses.

In the early 2000s, Sun started a business tapping into the Hezhe cultural treasure -- fish-skin painting.

Fish skin was used to make clothes and decorations by the Hezhe people due to their long-standing fishing tradition. Sun was one of the first ones in his village to sell the ethnic paintings and later taught the skills to his fellow villagers.

"Our paintings are not only sold to tourists who visit our village but also online," said Sun, "We see our culture spread across the country."

Many of the paintings also bear ethnic features, taking inspiration from Hezhe folklores and ballad singing.

"In the coming year, I'll devote more of my energy to collecting information and writing about Hezhe culture," said Sun. "I want more people to know and like our culture."