Chinese Fishing Nets

Landmark in Kochi (Cochin)

The unofficial emblems of Kerala’s backwaters, and perhaps the most photographed, are the half-dozen giant cantilevered Chinese fishing nets on Fort Cochin's northeastern shore, known locally as cheena vala. A legacy of traders from the AD 1400 court of Kublai Khan, these spiderlike, 10m-tall contraptions rest on teak or bamboo poles and require five or six people to operate their counterweights at high tide.

Modern fishing techniques are making these labour-intensive methods less and less profitable, with nets slowly disappearing from Kerala's coastline. Smaller fishing nets are dotted around the shores of Vembanad and Ashtamudi lakes; some of the best are just east of Cherai Beach on Vypeen Island.