M ost readers of WiC will be familiar with the term dama, referring to typically female retirees who congregate in public spaces and parks to dance each evening.
But what of their husbands? How are they passing their time?
The answer could well be fishing.
Angling has been getting more popular with elderly men as it gets them outside and brings them into contact with other retirees. Even in cities like Beijing they can be found along urban canals, rods in hand, listening to radios or reading newspapers as they fish.
But new video footage – widely shared online this week – shows just how popular the pastime has become as the population ages. It features a subway station on the outskirts of the city of Nanjing. Every morning the scene is the same: shortly after 7am the first train with passengers from the city centre pulls into the platform. The doors open and a couple of hundred anglers pour out, hauling fishing tackle and plastic paint tubs which double as fish carriers and seats.
The men – all clad in outdoor wear – race down the platform, despite station announcements telling them to go slower. The real squeeze comes when they hit the escalators to the bus concourse below – fishing rods tangle and buckets bang together, with a few taking the staircase in a bid to get ahead. Everyone wants to snag a seat on the first bus to the nearby lakes and get the best spots by the water.
Just as quickly as the rush starts, it subsides. After the third train of the day pulls into Gaochun station, there are no more anglers to be seen.
“If you get there early, you catch more fish,” Xinhua quoted one elderly enthusiast as saying.
Fishing is an activity that is definitely seeing more adherents in China with the numbers of recreational fisheries and the value of fishing equipment sold both showing double-digit growth.
And while sea and river fishing are favoured by those with the chance to access it, most people catch carp in the stiller waters of inland lakes and canals.
Nanjing’s fishermen are fortunate because the lakes to the south of the city are reachable from its subway system, although some of the anglers are doing a round trip of 200 kilometres every day.
Getting started in fishing is also less expensive in China because so much fishing tackle is made there. Indeed, as many as 60% of the world’s fishing rods are said to be made in Shandong’s Weihai city.
Members of the Nanjing fishing fraternity say they usually make the trip three or four times a week and that they enjoy the camaraderie on the banks – even if they sometimes return home without a single catch.
“It’s just for fun and it’s better than playing mahjong. It’s a healthy sport,” explained one to Xinhua.
After watching the video of the early morning jostle through the station, some netizens speculated that there were probably more fishermen than fish. Others – noting the sprightliness of many of the pensioners – joked that the government needed to raise the retirement age and keep such dynamic folk in the working population. As one younger netizen quipped about these dashu (the male equivalent of the dama): “If I was a fish I’d be afraid.”
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