Body fishermen in China

Lun Lun, 24, of Shangping village in Gansu Province, China, is a body fisherman. He rows his hand-made canoe down the Yellow River seeking dead bodies, and charges 3000 yuan (US$450) to deliver corpses for identification. From CNN:
Lun Lun and his fellow fishermen have dragged more than one hundred bodies out of the river this year alone as they float downstream from the bustling metropolis. Body fishermen claim the dead are typically victims of suicide or murder from the bustling western provincial capital city of Lanzhou, just 20 kilometers to the west. Authorities say other victims have drowned or died in accidents.

Meanwhile, Wei Jinpeng and Wei Yinquan publicly advertise their services by spray-painting their mobile phone numbers and the words "body fishing up ahead" on the sides of mountains and buildings along the river and roads between Lanzhou and Shangping...

"They are working a job like anyone else," said Ms. Wei of nearby Shangping village, who is not related to Wei Jinpeng. "And somebody has to do it, right? Otherwise our river might get too full with bodies."

"Trawling for the dead in cradle of Chinese civilization" (Thanks, Mark Pescovitz!)


  1. This was apparently also a common practice in London during the Victorian era. Dickens’ /Our Mutual Friend/, which was written in 1865, opens with a body-fishing scene:

    “a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge, which is of iron, and London Bridge, which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in”


    “[w]hat he had in tow, lunged itself at him sometimes in an awful manner when the boat was checked, and sometimes seemed to try to wrench itself away, though for the most part it followed submissively”

    ..lest we get too Occidentalist on this one.

  2. Back in 2008, I was living in Kaifeng, a city situated very close to the Yellow River. My friends and I decided to visit the river one day, and we quickly realized why it wasn’t a tourist attraction. There was a gigantic bloated dead pig stuck floating amidst a thick layer of lightbulbs and plastic jugs. Not a pretty sight or smell.

    1. That smell – the odour that when encountered as kids traveling in the car we used to yell ‘skunk’ – is it really a skunk or just the generic smell of death?

  3. My grandfather lived in the Avon River valley of Nova Scotia (mom as born in 1930), and she said her dad augmented his meager welfare earnings by fishing bodies out of the tidal river, which trapped folks on the mud flats all the time. Somehow in the ’30s and ’40s there must have been a signal out of Windsor to the folks along the shore, so that he could row out and grab the body and the cash.

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