Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

Tibetan Sushi

with 3 comments

freeing the fish

.
Last week when I delivered a couple of my books to a store in Amsterdam with all sorts of things Tibetan, there was a Tibetan man, tall impressive, long hair in a fashionable bun. He was chatting with the shopkeeper about preparing food, actually preparing the fish from the tank at the shop keepers home into sushi. First jokingly then more seriously as it turned out he was running a sushi restaurant and he noticed the title of my book ‘Freeing the Fish’.
‘Freeing the Fish’ refers to the first story in my book and the practise in Lhasa for Tibetans to buy live fish in market to set them free in the river to save lives and gain merit.

We had a laugh about this coincidence and joked about his business. But the conversation turned more serious when the man who was even addressed as Rinpoche (a reincarnated Lama), explained that he would donate a lot of the money he earned with the restaurant. He indicated how fat the pile of banknotes would be that he would hand to monasteries and charity for blind people in Nepal. I have no idea why he chose to run this particular restaurant, he might have very good and valid reasons, but still there was an apparent sense of guilt. Luckily it seems possible to counterbalance at least some of the bad karma from running a Sushi restaurant by donating to monasteries. The principle of setting off good deeds against bad apparently is very common, at least it sounded very familiar to me.

I have met  Tibetans that eat fish, not so many years ago some (relatively) well to do Tibetans quite enjoyed the fish restaurants in the Chinese parts of Lhasa. They only stopped going there after the Dalai Lama had made some statements about eating fish. Some even ventilated their displeasure with the fact they could not eat fish anymore.

Maybe this is when the whole ‘Freeing the Fish’ practise really took on the scale it has now. I found this very interesting video on youtube showing how Tibetan businessmen donate a lot of money for buying the fish and make it into a special day to release the fish. Trucks filled with water and fish drive to the river where the fish is released from boats flying the Chinese flag.

I wonder if running up to Saga Dawa (Buddhist celebrations, remembering the birth of the historical Buddha), which is considered an auspicious time for releasing fish, the fisherman work over time to be able to fulfill the demand. Like eggs at Easter or turkey at Christmas. If the Tibetans are really opposed to fishing, and freeing fish is not just a way to gather good karma during festive days, maybe it would be better to not buy fish.

After deliberating on the freeing the fish practice for a couple of days, I still only know one thing for sure; Freak coincidences do occur in real life.
.
freeing the fish_2
Tibetans releasing fish in the river, Lhasa

Advertisements

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Glorious pictures and experiences~

    Gator Woman

    July 19, 2013 at 21:55

  2. Hallo Marieke, Gefeliciteerd met ” Freeing the fish”, het is een prachtig werk geworden, dat zeker vele liefhebbers zal weten te vinden. Ik heb het in Naarden aangeschaft en wacht nu alleen nog maar op een goed moment om het door jou te laten signeren. Helaas kon ik niet in de Donkere Kamer bij je presentatie aanwezig zijn ivm. de voorbereidingen voor een expositie in Zwitserland. Komt er een vervolg op “Freeing the fish” of ga je aan een nieuw project beginnen? Het lijkt wel of je boek nu al de centrale autoriteit in Peking aan het denken heeft gezet…. Groet, Hans van Reekum

    Hans van Reekum

    July 7, 2013 at 15:20

  3. Reblogged this on bronxdailyblog.

    salsacr1

    June 21, 2013 at 01:45


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: