A religious act on the banks of Jinan’s Yellow River called ‘releasing lives to freedom’ took a terrible, terrible turn on Wednesday when a group of people released some 800 captive carp into the water only for them to be immediately scooped up 100 yards downstream by over 50 opportunistic men waiting with nets.
The group of 20 people on the banks appeared to be taking part in a Buddhist act of faith when they released the 2,200 pounds of fish into the Yellow River, the New York Times reports:
In “fangsheng,” or “release life,” believers take animals from captivity and release them into the natural environment. According to the Chinese intellectual Lin Yutang, turtles are released to pray for longevity and fish for enlightenment, often into rivers or lakes. Birds are released into the air. Reports said the act was to “restock” the river with carp.
Photos revealing the release and immediate capture of the fish so tantalizingly close to liberation have been making the rounds everywhere from Weibo to CNTV. Grim reports say that both parties had brought trucks—the releasers “to transport the fish to freedom, and the catchers, to carry them back to captivity”.
“Our people are like that,” said one Chinese netizen whose post gained over 2,500 recommendations.
Earlier this year, an alarming mass of dead floating fish along the man-made Sijing pond in Shanghai’s Songjiang district was believed to have been the result of Buddhist followers seeking similar enlightenment. In that instance, the fish had died because too many were released in the water together.
According to officials, many people drop several hundred to thousands of yuan to buy fish from markets and release them into nearby waterways.