The annual “winter catch” at Chagan Lake revives a millennia-old fishing tradition as a cultural spectacle

Under the purple twilight, a sleigh pulled by a dozen horses soars over untouched snow; running parallel, head fisherman Zhang Wen’s secondhand Subaru forges through the fog. His flashlight dances into the darkness, searching for the red flag marking where his team left their net the previous night.

“So, when will we get to the lake?” I ask our driver Mr. Wang, who plants rice from late spring to early autumn, then ferries tourists in winter when his fields are covered in snow.

“We’ve been on top of the lake for the last five minutes!” announces Wang, his hands nimbly shifting the steering wheel into a sharp turn, still in hot pursuit of the fishermen. Beneath the frozen blanket of white stretching horizon to horizon, there is no telling where the ground ends and the lake begins.

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Of Ice and Men is a story from our issue, “Grape Expectations.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Tina Xu (徐盈盈)

Tina Xu is the former culture editor at The World of Chinese. She writes across film, literature, and society, spanning from indie documentaries to diaspora communities. Her stories for TWOC received the 2021 SOPA Award for Excellence in Regional Reporting on the Environment, and were finalists in Women’s Issues and Photography.

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