aojiaozeng, which means “stilts fishing net,” is a method of fishing unique to the Jing minority living on Weidao Island in the South China Sea off the coast of Dongxing City in Guangxi Province. The fishermen stand on stilts a few meters offshore, holding a large and heavy net on their shoulders. The practice is believed to have started 500 years ago, designed by the ancestors of the Jing people to get a better view of the movement of “southern shrimps,” which, from the 6th to 8th month of the lunar year, migrate en masse from the deep sea to the shoals. The return from using fishing on stilts was high. In the past, more than 500 tons of southern shrimps would be caught in a harvest.
In the old days, all Jing households owned stilts, and every man learned how to use fishing nets on stilts. The skills needed to make and use the nets must be mastered by Jing men. Otherwise, they would be mocked by women and even might not be able to find a wife. The tradition, however, has been dying out over the past decade. The overfishing of marine stocks has caused a significant drop in the amount of fish and shrimp in Weidao.
Today only four elderly fishermen, the oldest of whom is over 80, know how to fish using stilts.