The glow of Chinese fishing tales

(2 minutes read)

Glowing cormorant lanterns welcome you as you enter the Chinese Garden in Montreal. For this 26th edition, the Magic of Lanterns honors fishing traditions and tales. With picturesque and colorful lights, navigate to discover the Sampan, the Lantern Night Fishing, and the Mythical He Luo Yu. Grab your jacket for a beautiful and unforgettable nighttime.

A pinch of history

  • The Hans Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) started the use of decorative lanterns for festivals.
  • The great cormorant from China and the Gulf of St Lawrence (Canada) is the same species.
  • In China water represents intelligence, flexibility, and wisdom.
  • The Chinese Garden includes more than 900 lanterns for this event.


Sampan, the traditional fishing boat

In Southern China, the flat-bottomed wooden boat is called a Sampan. Stable and light, these basket boats serve as a coasting boat, freshwater fishing or floating market. Sampan can be partially decked with a shelter and converted into a habitat. As an example the Yangtze River house a large neighborhood of Sampan.


The traditional lantern night fishing

Lantern night fishing is one of the oldest traditions in China. Standing on their bamboo raft, fishermen are orchestrating a night dance with birds and fishes. The river is slightly lighted by the lanterns as cormorants dive into water searching for fish. Guided by their masters through wooden poles, the cormorant will surprise fishes in this lightless environment. The birds will return the big fishes to the fisherman while eating the smaller ones.


Did you know? Cormorants can’t swallow big fishes due to a string knotted around their throats.


The Mythical He Luo Yu, the fishing legend

5 000 years ago, the Shan Hai Jing book (Classic of Mountains and Seas) narrated myths and legends. Among them, the mythical He Luo Yu. The story takes place in a village in central China. Fishermen are working when suddenly an enormous fish leaped out the water. Looking closely, this animal has one head and ten bodies!  He Luo Yu escaped the men by transforming into a bird.




A year of coordination between Montreal and Shanghai

Bringing the Magic of Lanterns alive is a yearlong process between Montreal and Shanghai. It starts during fall when the team in Montreal brainstorms a theme and build lantern prototypes. The quest continues a thousand miles away, in Shanghai, where artisans follow Canadian instructions to fabric manually each of the lanterns. In July, as soon as shipping is received in Montreal, the technical team installs supports and sets.




Ready to check your Montreal’s bucket list?



  • Location: Jardin Botanique 4101, rue Sherbrooke Est Montréal, Québec (Canada).
  • Hours: Sep 7 to Oct 31, 2018: Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri, Sat, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Admission: $21.
  • Duration: I spent 2h00 hour to discover it.
  • More information available at

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