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Fish Skin Painting

The Hezhen people are an ethnic minority in northeastern China with a relatively small population. Over the generations, they have lived by fishing and hunting, while their use of fish skin in making clothes and in painting earned them the nickname of “fish skin tribe”. Precisely the essence of Hezhen arts and culture, the craftsmanship of fish skin painting was among the first batch of items inscribed onto the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Young local illustrator OR Wai Wai is especially charmed by old areas such as Yau Ma Tei, where she often does quick sketches of small traditional shops as a record of their features. Intrigued by Hezhen people’s seemingly random use of fish skin in painting to document tribal legends, she is travelling all the way to Heilongjiang this time to learn the art from its successor, ZHANG Lin. She will also visit the place where the Hezhen community lives, hoping to understand their fish skin culture, as well as how they pass on and rejuvenate this traditional art, thereby bringing inspiration to her own works.


  • Video
  • English
  • Culture
  • Completed
“Windtaking” refers to the gleaning of folk customs, in particular, the collection of regional folk songs and folk music. “Windtaking” originated from “Sorrow ferments when the emperor does not glean folk songs; governors no longer write poems; music officers do not pursue elegance; and a kingdom’s history leaves out transformation.” from “Zhong Shuo” by WANG Tong in Sui Dynasty.

“Wind” was referred to as folk songs in ancient time and that was why the gleaning activities of folk songs were called “windtaking” which had begun long since the time of the early Qin Dynasty in China. Since the ruling class and the lowlife were set apart, gleaning folk music, a means to voice public sentiments, was naturally the best approach for the government to gauge public opinions. Therefore, monarchs attached great importance to the collection of folk music in understanding public sentiments.

During the New Culture Movement advocated in the “May Fourth Movement”, some scholars had introduced folklore from overseas which has widened the coverage of the meaning in “windtaking”, making it as a reference to all collections regarding folk creations and customs.

Hong Kong people scramble for innovations but creation too takes root, no matter it is music, opera, dance or tea culture, they are all based on the past in pursuit of novelty by which the definition of novelty is unearthed from traditions. There is a saying in China that goes “missing formality can be sought among people”, and most of those primal customs are scattered across the most antiseptic nooks and crannies which are far from approachable.

“Windtakers”, a documentary that consists of 7 half-hour episodes, will explore how the young people in Hong Kong who work on their creations in different fields hunt for inspiration among the people in the Mainland.
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