A square frame can always be found at the centre of the fishponds in Tai Sang Wai, beside which often docked a small boat. This adds some dynamics and changes in images to the flat surface of the water. But this is just the nice description from the idlers. Actually, these square frames are the dining table for the pond fishes. To accurately observe the health status of the fishes every day and to give timely care, the fishermen adopt a simple and homemade method: Every morning, the fishermen punt the boat and throw fish feed into the frame. If the fishes swim actively to eat the feed, they should be healthy. If their breath is weak and they lose their appetite, the water quality may be harmful, and it needs to be dealt with. So, the drifting frame is a dining table for the fishes and also the eyes of fish farmers. It can monitor the health of the fishes. It is simple and practical; it is the wisdom of the fish farmers. People who love to eat fish probably can’t wait to see fishes jumping onto these square frames.
中國人愛吃魚，魚又跟餘同音，借代成很多美詞，如年年有魚等。但好奇下，又看到「魚傳尺素」這個很美的詞藻，原來魚跟雁一樣，在古代文字世界，都可作為書信的代名詞，要是秘傳書信，會以一呎長的白色绢帛寫信，放在魚腹中。最古出處有: 漢代樂府民歌《飲馬長城窟行》描寫妻子對遠方丈夫思念之情，靠魚傳尺素来傳情，原诗：「枯桑知天風，海水知天寒。入門各自媚，谁肯相為言！客從遠方来，遺我雙鯉魚。呼兒烹鲤魚，中有尺素書。長跪讀素書，書中竟何如？」但是，真的把信放在魚肚呢?很奇怪罷...... 再查看，原來「雙鲤魚」，是指放書信的盒子，用兩塊木板做成，一底一蓋，刻成魚形，中間夾信。成雙鯉魚，明喻愛侶分離，中以書信傳情相連，古人幾百年前的浪漫。很美。婉約秦觀也有這句「驛寄梅花，魚傳尺素，砌成此恨無重數。」《踏莎行》。
The character of fish (魚) has the same sound as the Chinese character of "abundance", so it is used in many substitutive idioms like nin nin yau yu (年年有魚) (having abundance every year). I also saw a beautiful word, which was yu cyun cek sou (魚傳尺素). Unexpectedly, it turns out that fish, like wild geese, can be used as a synonym of letters in the ancient world. One-foot-long white silk would be used to write secret messages, which were then placed in the belly of a fish. The most ancient documentation of the term is a Yuefu folk song in the Han Dynasty namely A Wife Longs for Her Husband. It describes a wife's longing for her husband in the distance. The author used yu cyun cek sou to express her love.
"Even a withered mulberry feels the wind. Even the ocean water feels the cold. Men come home to fondle their dear ones. Who would carry word to me? But a stranger from far away brings me two fine carps. I call the boy to cook them, and find in them a message on white silk. I kneel to read—What does his letter say?"
But, did people really put letters in fish bellies? It's weird... When I checked about it again, "a pair of carps" refers to a letterbox made of two wooden boards, one as the cover and the other at the bottom, with a letter in the middle. The letterbox is carved into the shape of a fish. The pair of carps similise the separation of lovers who send letters to deliver their emotions. It was the ancients' romance hundreds of years ago. It's beautiful. QIN Guan, a poet of Graceful and Restrained School, also composed this poem:
"I'm sending you a sprig of plum blooms from the inn and a letter through a carp, to convey my myriads of regrets that have piled miles high."
——Lyrics to the Melody of Walking on Grass
Besides, the ancients also used fish-shaped tallies as an identity proof. According to some online information, the identity cards of government officials were called "fish-shaped tallies" during the Sui and Tang dynasties. They were in the shape of a fish and divided into two and were mostly made of metal and wood, with official names and ranks engraved. For sixth-rank officials, the fish-shaped tallies were made of copper; for the fifth-rank officials, they were made of silver; and for the third-rank officials or above, they were made of gold. Bags containing the fish-shaped tallies were called fish bag and were exclusive for officials above fifth-rank.
The culture of fish in China is profound. It ranges from staple food, lifestyle, emotional projection, symbols of social status, to various auspicious deductions, it is fascinating.