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Pictures Report

RTS2Z9DA
China's 'mermaid descendants' craft garments from fish skin
A dwindling number of China's tiny Hezhen ethnic group still follow the tradition of making garments from the skin of carp, pike and salmon.
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6J8
January 21, 2020
You Wenfeng, 68, poses with her fishskin clothes at her studio in Tongjiang, Heilongjiang province, China...
TONGJIANG, China
You Wenfeng, 68, an ethnic Hezhen woman poses with her fishskin clothes at her studio in Tongjiang
You Wenfeng, 68, poses with her fishskin clothes at her studio in Tongjiang, Heilongjiang province, China December 31, 2019. You, who belongs to China's tiny Hezhen ethnic group, is one of the few people in her community who can still make clothing from the skin of fish.

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JD
January 21, 2020
You Wenfeng poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang. She was not yet born when...
TONGJIANG, China
You Wenfeng, 68, an ethnic Hezhen woman, poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang...
You Wenfeng poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang. She was not yet born when her kinsmen were thrown into labor camps during Japan's occupation of Manchuria in the 1930s and 1940s. "Many Hezhen clans perished, but my mother survived to pass on her fish-skin knowledge to me," said You.

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JI
January 21, 2020
You Wenfeng plays with a fisherman's dog at a frozen river in Tongjiang. A Tungusic people native to...
TONGJIANG, China
You Wenfeng, 68, an ethnic Hezhen woman plays with a fisherman's dog at a frozen river in Tongjiang
You Wenfeng plays with a fisherman's dog at a frozen river in Tongjiang. A Tungusic people native to Siberia and on the Black Dragon river, as the Amur is known in China, the Hezhen rebuilt its population to 5,000 from 300 after World War II. But that hasn't stopped the decline of Hezhen culture, including the tradition of making garments from the skin of carp, pike and salmon.

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JE
January 21, 2020
Few in the current generation are interested in learning the craft. Fish-skin clothing is also no longer...
TONGJIANG, China
Ethnic Hezhen You Wenfeng's Chinese Han student learns how to make clothes from fish skin at You's studio...
Few in the current generation are interested in learning the craft. Fish-skin clothing is also no longer a regular part of daily Hezhen attire.

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6J9
January 21, 2020
Sensing the end, You started to impart her knowledge to some local Han Chinese women in Tongjiang, a...
TONGJIANG, China
You Wenfeng, 68, an ethnic Hezhen woman, poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang...
Sensing the end, You started to impart her knowledge to some local Han Chinese women in Tongjiang, a quiet city near the northeastern border with Russia where she now lives. Her disciples also learn the Yimakan, a storytelling genre that switches between speech and song in the Hezhen language.

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JM
January 21, 2020
You Wenfeng's Chinese Han students learn how to make clothes from fish skin at You's studio. The education...
TONGJIANG, China
Ethnic Hezhen You Wenfeng's Chinese Han students learn how to make clothes from fish skin at You's studio...
You Wenfeng's Chinese Han students learn how to make clothes from fish skin at You's studio. The education is arduous, with You's acolytes committing to memory songs of fishing, hunting and ancient tribal conquests through phonetics alone. With little prompting, You burst into song in her studio apartment during a visit by Reuters, singing of a woman's wish to bear a son for her hunter-husband.

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JL
January 21, 2020
The sun sets over snow-covered river in Tongjiang. Hezhen hunters rode on canoes made from birch, or...
TONGJIANG, China
The sun sets over snow-covered river in Tongjiang
The sun sets over snow-covered river in Tongjiang. Hezhen hunters rode on canoes made from birch, or "swift horses", You said, smiling.

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JJ
January 21, 2020
Such is their skill on water that legend says the Hezhen descended from mermaids. "When the forests flooded...
TONGJIANG, China
Frozen fishs are seen at a frozen river in Tongjiang in Tongjiang
Such is their skill on water that legend says the Hezhen descended from mermaids. "When the forests flooded to the treetops, there'd be fish everywhere," she said. "Just throw your spear into the water and there'd be fish."

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JA
January 21, 2020
These days, fish are sourced from the marketplace. And instead of tiger bone and deer tendon, embroidery...
TONGJIANG, China
ethnic Hezhen You Wenfeng's Chinese Han students learn how to make clothes from fish skin at You's studio...
These days, fish are sourced from the marketplace. And instead of tiger bone and deer tendon, embroidery needles and cotton thread are used. A top and a pair of trousers for a woman require 50 fish, and for a man, 56, You said.

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JK
January 21, 2020
She would de-skin the fish and dry the skin. It is then repeatedly passed through the wooden jaws of...
TONGJIANG, China
You Wenfeng, 68, an ethnic Hezhen woman, poses with her fishskin clothes at her studio in Tongjiang
She would de-skin the fish and dry the skin. It is then repeatedly passed through the wooden jaws of a rudimentary press to soften it. The process takes a month. Sewing requires a further 20 days.

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JC
January 21, 2020
You Wenfeng poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang. Finding commercial functions...
TONGJIANG, China
You Wenfeng, 68, an ethnic Hezhen woman, poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang...
You Wenfeng poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang. Finding commercial functions for fish-skin might save the craft. Fish-leather has inspired some luxury fashion houses such as Dior and Prada to occasionally include it in their garments and accessories, but the fabric is still largely a curiosity. "Look at the criss-cross pattern on the skin," You said. "It's stronger than most skins."

REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6J6
January 21, 2020
You Wenfeng poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang. REUTERS/Aly Song
TONGJIANG, China
You Wenfeng, 68, an ethnic Hezhen woman, poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang...
You Wenfeng poses with her fishskin clothes at a frozen river in Tongjiang. REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JN
January 21, 2020
A Hezhen village is seen in Tongjiang. REUTERS/Aly Song
TONGJIANG, China
A Hezhen village is seen in Tongjiang
A Hezhen village is seen in Tongjiang. REUTERS/Aly Song
CHINA-SOCIETY/FISHSKIN
RTS2Z6JG
January 21, 2020
People walk across a snow-covered riverbank in Tongjiang. REUTERS/Aly Song
TONGJIANG, China
People walk across a snow-covered riverbank in Tongjiang
People walk across a snow-covered riverbank in Tongjiang. REUTERS/Aly Song
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