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Chagan Lake - The Largest Inland Lake in Jilin

Chagan Lake, Mongolian for "Chagan Nur", means white and holy lake. It is located in Mongolian Autonomous County in the northwest of Jilin Province, where Nen River and Huolin River meet. It is 37 kilometers long from north to south, 17 kilometers wide from east to west, with a total area of 500 square kilometers and average annual water storage of 700 million cubic meters. It is one of the top ten freshwater lakes in China, It is also the largest inland lake in Jilin Province. Chagan Lake has three sister lakes including Xindianpao, Xinmiaobao, and Kulibao. Chagan Lake has a beautiful environment, scenery, rich resources. It is rich in Chinese carp, silver carp, and bighead carp. It can produce 6000 tons of fresh fish and 50000 tons of reed every year. Among them, Chagan Lake bighead carp (commonly known as fathead fish) is the most famous. There are 239 species of birds in the lake area, including 9 endangered species such as red-crowned cranes, white-headed cranes, and oriental white storks, and 35 species of black-faced spoonbills, gray cranes, and sparrowhawks protected at the national level.

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History of Chagan Lake

Chagan Lake has a long history and splendid civilization. According to archaeological discoveries, ancient humans lived at the Qingshantou near Chagan Lake as early as the late Paleolithic age more than 13000 years ago. It is a fishing and hunting place for emperors of the Liao, Jin, and Yuan Dynasties. In the Song and Liao dynasties, from emperor Shengzong to Emperor Tianzuo, they led officials, queens, and concubines from the capital to Chagan Lake for fishing and hunting every spring, which was called "spring nabao". At that time, the emperor met with tribal leaders and held "First Fish Banquet" and "First Goose Banquet". It is said that when Genghis Khan came to Horqin grassland to conquer the kingdom in 1211, he burned incense and worshipped at Chagan Lake. From then on, Chagan Lake has been publicized as a "holy lake". Until now, before fishing in winter, Chagan Lake has to hold a traditional ceremony to worship the lake and bless the net. On the one hand, people respect Chagan Lake, and at the same time, they seek prosperity and harvest from it. Chagan Lake is also closely related to the empress Xiaozhuang of the Qing Dynasty. During the Qing Dynasty, it was also a religious and cultural center within a radius of hundreds of kilometers. There were Miaoyin temple and other temples. Now, after the restoration and reconstruction of Miaoyin temple, a series of religious and cultural activities have been formed, such as temple fair, Chama dance, Qiandeng Dharma fair, Lake sacrifice, and so on. Today, the unique Eastern Mongolian culture and national customs formed here are still well preserved. In particular, the winter fishing in Chagan Lake is a living relic of human fishing and hunting culture.

Chagan Lake Winter Fishing of Chagan Lake
© mafengwo / 李木齐

Chagan Lake Winter Fishing

From the middle of December to the late January of the following year, the winter fishing in Chagan Lake will be held as scheduled. Winter fishing is a traditional fishery custom in Mongol Autonomous County, Songyuan City, Jilin Province. This traditional fishery originated in prehistory and flourished in Liao and Jin Dynasties. It has been inherited for thousands of years. It retains rituals or processes such as sacrificing the lake, waking up the net, ice drilling, and casting the net. Although the years change, the spectacle, magic, and sanctity of winter fishing in Chagan Lake remain. Today, nearly 2 million tourists visit Chagan Lake every year, bringing more than 10 billion Yuan of comprehensive tourism income to the local area, and the local online sales of agricultural products are also increasing year by year.

The most famous fish in Chagan Lake is fat head fish, which is also known as bighead carp and silver carp. It lives in the upper layer of the water and has a mild temperament. It mainly eats zooplankton in the water and phytoplankton. The fat head fish in Chagan Lake grows in a purely natural state without any bait, fertilizer, and pesticide. As a traditional fishing custom, it has enjoyed a reputation in the Liao and Jin Dynasties, as a famous feature of Jilin. The winter fishing in Chagan Lake has long been listed in the provincial intangible cultural heritage list of Jilin Province. It was rated as one of China's top ten ecological festivals and national intangible cultural heritage, and Chagan Lake was determined as a national intangible cultural park.

In the winter fishing activities in Chagan Lake, 420,000 kg were caught in one net in 2018, creating a new Guinness world record for the highest amount of under-ice fishing in a single net; In 2020, the total catch of winter fishing activities will exceed 3 million kg. In fact, the whole Chagan Lake can provide 1300 tons of high-quality fish in a year. Now, if the technology allows, throwing a net in winter can normally capture fish of more than 300000 kg. In addition to the weight of fishing, the price of the first fish is often recorded. In the annual winter fishing activities, the first fish caught is often regarded as a symbol of luck and attracts many people to buy it. Usually, the first fish is sold by auction. In the first year of 2014, the fish was auctioned for 370,000 Yuan. In 2020, the initial auction price of the first fish was only 200000. After several rounds of price increase year by year, the first fish once soared to 3 million. According to the records, the heaviest fish king caught in Chagan Lake in 2016, weighing about 25kg, was also sold in the form of an auction, and the final transaction price was 858,000 Yuan.

Chagan Lake Fishermen Digging A Hole on Iced Lake
© mafengwo / 小吞er
Chagan Lake Pulling Out Lots of Fish
© mafengwo / 小吞er
Chagan Lake Fat Head Fish of Chagan Lake
© mafengwo / 小吞er

Chagan Lake Winter Fishing Ritual

In winter, Chagan Lake is covered with silver and plain, and the scenery is very beautiful. Before the start of the annual winter fishing activities, the mysterious ceremony of "Sacrificing the Lake and Blessing the Net" of Chagan Lake winter fishing will be held here. When the ceremony of "Sacrificing the Lake and Blessing the Net" is announced, drums and music will be heard. The head of the fisherman will lead the Mongolian girls holding hada, the Mongolian youth holding milk buckets, and the fishermen in white stubble sheep fur coats to ride on the horse with plow, and the Lama in red cassock shakes the Dharma wheel and other Buddhist tools, Chama dancers wearing masks of dragons, deer, cattle, and horses enter the sacrificial site with the sound of drums. In the lake worship, the chanting of lamas, the dancing, colorful balloons, the noisy drum music, and the beating of Chama, the people in the lake area offering sacrifices to the lake God, were believed by the local people to awake the winter net with the blessings of the sustainable reproduction of all creatures and the happy and healthy life of the people. After the ceremony, a series of winter fishing plows shuttle back and forth on the ice. The high-pitched and excited labor chant dispels the coldness of the severe winter. The heavy net pulls out from the ice hole with the sparkling fresh fish, which forms the most spectacular scene of Chagan Lake in winter.

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Chagan Lake Chagan Lake Winter Fishing Ritual
© 百家号 / 知识TenT
Chagan Lake Chagan Lake Winter Fishing Ritual
© mafengwo / 李木齐

Chagan Lake in Summer

In addition to fishing activities in winter, Chagan Lake in summer is also very beautiful. The lakeside is cool and pleasant. You can drive a speedboat to the broad lake; take a raft through the winding reed corridor to enjoy the lotus flowers; sit in the dense high weeds to listen to the melodious sound of the local horse head string instrument; take the silver bowl of milk wine from the Mongolian people under the shady trees... The summer of Chagan Lake is famous for its grassland, pure lake, cool mountain, and rich ethnic customs.

Chagan Lake in Summer Chagan Lake in Summer
© 悠游吉林

Chagan Lake Location & How to Get There

Chagan Lake (124° 03′ - 124° 34′E, 45° 09′ - 45° 30′N) is located in the northwest of Jilin Province and in the golden triangle of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Heilongjiang and Jilin Province. Chagan Lake is 45km away from Songyuan City (about 1h by car), 193km away from Changchun in the South, and 265km away from Harbin in the north. The three nearest airports are Changchun Airport (about 233km, 3h by car), Harbin Airport (about 288km, 3.5h by car), and Daqing Airport (about 237km, 3h by car). You can take a flight to any of these airports and charter a car to Chagan Lake. Also, Changbai Railway, National Highway 203, Tuwu Highway, Daguang Expressway, and many other national and provincial roads are run by the lake, and the transportation to Chagan Lake is very convenient by car.

You can also get to Songyuan by train first and transfer from Songyuan to Chagan Lake. It takes about 1 hour from Songyuan Railway Station to Chagan Lake.

Transportation from Songyuan City: in front of Dream Paris (梦巴黎) on Wulan street, Songyuan City, a tourist bus is scheduled to get to Chagan Lake every morning. The bus fare is about CNY 13. Also, from Songyuan passenger station, tourists can also get to Chagan Lake by bus. However, some of the buses only operate during peak time. If it does not work, you can charter a private car to Chagan Lake

Travel with China Discovery

In order to have a worry-free transfer, traveling with China Discovery is top recommended. Our local travel guide and driver will pick you up at the airport or train station as you arrive and then escort you to your hotel or every attraction listed in your itinerary with an air-conditioned and non-smoking vehicle. Great freedom will be given to you whenever you need to stop for sightseeing and photography. You are sure to enjoy a comfortable, safe and efficient experience.

We China Discovery has helped hundreds of visitors travel Chagan Lake and the surrounding highlights like Mount Changbai, Beidahu Ski Resort, Jilin Wusong Island, Jingpo Lake and even tour to Harbin. Convenient private car is included in all of our tours. If you are interested, please feel free to contact us!

How to Plan A Jilin Province Tour

Changbai Mountain is the premier sight of Jilin Province. Generally, a classic Changbai Mountain tour needs at least 3 days including arrival and departure days. Many travelers spend 1 day visiting North Slope or West Slope, and half a day traveling Mojie Scenic Area. And some travelers wanting to see Heavenly Lake may spend 2 days visiting both slopes. If you are interested in a winter holiday around Changbaishan, it takes another 2 days to enjoy skiing in Wanda Changbaishan Ski Resort and other winter activities.

☞ 3 Days Changbai Mountain Classic Tour
☞ 5 Days Changbaishan Winter Tour

Want an in-depth discovery? We suggest you spend more days taking a view of different perspectives of Jilin Province. It takes 1 day to visit Wusong Island and other highlights and in Jilin City, 1 day to explore the Puppet Emperor's Palace - the official residence of Puyi and other featured architectures in Changchun, 1 day to discover Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom in Ji'an, and 1 day to watch the amazing spectacle of winter fishing in Chagan Lake if you travel in winter..

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☞ 6 Days Jilin Winter Tour with Chagan Lake Winter Fishing
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For travelers with more time, travel China's Dongbei (northeastern area) including Liaoning Province, Jilin Province and Heilongjiang Province together is strongly recommended. You can extend your tour to Harbin and China Snow town for the breathtaking world of snow and ice, Shengyang to witness establishment and collapse of China's final imperial dynasty, and Dalian to appreciate the fresh air and nice beaches.

☞ 7 Days Amazing Northeast China Winter Tour (Harbin / China Snow Town / Jingpo Lake / Dunhua / Changbai Mountain / Jilin)
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