Root diggers

by Jason Lee on February 19, 2014

Newly retrieved lotus roots are stacked on the river bed. Photo: CFP

Acquiring lotus roots, which Chinese people see as a delicacy, is a laborious process. Hidden in the mud under freshwater rivers and lakes, there is no other means of digging them out except by hand.

The lotus roots must be retrieved from mud and cleaned without being broken, otherwise their price will go down drastically, especially when they break and are contaminated with silt.

The freezing winter is the peak time for digging for lotus roots, as the market demand surges around the Spring Festival and they can sell for higher prices.

There is also high demand for lotus root diggers at this time of year. The diggers who take up this seasonal profession travel dozens of kilometers to lakes or ponds every day. They brave freezing waters wearing multiple layers inside waterproof outfits, pulling the white delicacy from the pitch dark silt. Sometimes, when the water freezes, they require the help of assistants to firstly break the ice before work can start.

Due to the severe working conditions, people in this profession are prone to getting rheumatic arthritis. Partly for this reason, employers complain that it has become increasingly difficult to hire lotus root diggers.

Yet, the methods for digging lotus roots are improving. More employers have provided high-pressure water guns to help remove the mud covering the white lotus roots, which greatly eases laborers’ workloads.

Global Times

A worker uses a water gun while digging for lotus roots in a lake near the Yellow River in Mengjin county, Henan Province.Photo: CFP

More people still dig lotus roots with shovels.Photo: CFP

A lotus root is pulled from the water with mud over it. Photo: CFP
A bunch of lotus roots are pulled from the pond. Photo: CFP

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