Ancient Fisherman of Folklore

Fisherman of Chinese Folklore

Silence.

Prior to the break of dawn, there is the pure ‘silence of nature’ as a man begins his day.  There are no beeping alarm clocks, no blare of traffic and it is the noticeable absence of the incessant sounds of technology ~ a staple of our every day existence ~ that creates greater peace to this calm.

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The silence of nature, with only faint sounds of the water lapping along the skiff and soft squawks of cormorants as the fisherman prepares himself for the day.  Such scenes were common centuries ago, but today are just rare hints of a glorious past.

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Nothing captures my interest more than mystical stories of the past.  Stories of folklore that can provide an adventurous path to archaic ideas and faraway cultures: sanctuaries to contemplate what was, what is and what could be.

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Tales from the past, part myth and part tradition, containing so much excitement that we are never sure “what to and not to believe.”  So we take it all in and churn these ideas around in our heads.  Folklore, a hint of our creative past pushing to remind us not to take our present so seriously.

When a piece of folklore shows itself in modern times, it draws out the calm and romantic emotions of days gone by.

Amid the talk of terabytes and the latest sound bites from twitter, a piece of folklore can instantly transport us back centuries and silence the screams of modernity.

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Today, when met with such folkloric sights as Cormorant fishing, it is hard not to believe it is authentic…as it is all based on cultural traditions.

The fishermen on the picturesque Li River in Southern China still exist, but not as their forefathers would have envisioned.  Like their kin, their livelihood and to some extent their culture dictates them to carry-on with their ancient traditions, but instead of fishing as a craft, they fish to exploit their craft for tourism, strongly supported by the local government .

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Does this act take away from the magic of viewing these last practitioners of ancient cormorant fishing?  At some level yes, as it is impossible to see it for anything but what it is today…however, inside it does strike a chord as it takes little imagination to see such a scene unfold as it took place centuries ago.

That is the beauty.

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The magic of photography can pull these mystical, ancient stories out from the attic and bring them to life today.  Is it necessary to describe the modern scene of today’s logic?  Or just let the imagination flow and take us back…to feel the romance of history and culture, to dream of a time where mortals and gods mingled daily.  Stories of folklore make this possible.

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Ancient cultures are vanishing as societies modernize.  While globalization brings people closer, there is no doubt that it also distills and homogenizes cultures.

The romantics of the world will always long for the ideals and spirit of the past, be it the Cowboys of the American West or Ancient Fishermen of Folklore in China.

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Often, the enemy is the incessant din of technology, and the narcissistic pursuit to be heard (ahem, this blog for instance).  The hum of computers and ring-tones of cell phones all which drive a wedge between ancient folklore and modern reality.

Yet, tech can be the savior as well.  Our job, as either artists or as those who appreciate great art, is to educate and pass-on the folklore to the next generation.  To ensure the spirit never dies.  Whether in stories, poetry, paintings or photography to name a few mediums, it is the respect and preservation of the past that helps fulfill the dreams of tomorrow.

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