Thursday, September 4, 2014

Voices from the Past: China's Most Famous Fisherman (1887)

I ran across this article many years ago, and due to my new laptop dying and forcing me to use my old one which I haven't touched in two years, I found it. Happy accident. It was published in The Youth's Companion on July 21, 1887 and details China's most famous angler. I love this piece.

A Famous Fisherman

The profession of a hook-and-line fisherman is not greatly honored in this country. That is to say, while angling is esteemed as a diversion, it is not greatly honored or sought after as a career.

In China the case is different. The hook-and-line fisherman is an object of general consideration, and is regarded, from the very fact that he is an angler, as a person of unusual discrimination, as a philosopher, and a wise man.

Many Chinamen become professors, literary men, diplomatists even, after a preliminary period spent in nothing but angling. Moreover, whereas in this part of the world public men, after a career honorably spent in the service of the State, often choose to retire to the country, and become farmers, the great Chinese mandarins who have made their reputation and fortune take up their hook and line, and go to angling the rest of their lives.

The most famous fisherman of China was the illustrious Yen-Tsen-Ling. He loved his fishing rod so dearly that he declined all the honors that the Emperor Kwang-Yoo sought to heap upon him.

The Emperor, in order to tempt him from his fishing grounds on the River Foo-Thoon, where he had obtained a reputation for wisdom, continued to offer him greater and greater offices, and richer and richer prizes.

But Yen-Tsen-Ling stuck to his fishing rod. He was dressed in a simple sheep-skin garment, lived upon the fish he himself caught, frying them over a fire of dry bamboo sticks, and eating them with a little rice, served on the green leaves of the nenuphar tree.

After his death, a magnificent temple was reared to him on the banks of the Foo-Thoon. His portrayer, life-size, and framed in a beautiful ode to him, which is one of the most brilliant of the Chinese classics, is still preserved in this temple.

-- Dr. Todd

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