By: Cole Hartke
The houseboat culture stretches from shanghai in the north along the coast to the southwest, with the center in Hong Kong. The inhabitants of these mobile homes never go on land and are quite happy to spend their lives packed together in tight companionship on their houseboats. The children of such families have no fear of the water, but their fondness for water decreases as their age increases.
The Tanka's or boat people are a special group in Southern China who have traditionally lived on junks in coastal parts of Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Hainan, and Zhejiang provinces, as well as Hong Kong and Macau. Though many now live onshore, some from the older generations still live on their narrow boats and pursue their traditional livelihood of fishing. Historically, the Tanka's were considered to be outcasts. Since they were boat people who lived by the sea, they were sometimes referred to as "sea gypsies" by the Chinese and British. The Tanka way of life continues today due to economic need, discriminatory laws and regulations, and social rejection.
The term junk may be used to cover many kinds of boats—ocean-going, cargo-carrying, pleasure boats, live-aboards. These ships are tall seagoing ships with square sails, high sterns, and flat bottoms. They vary greatly in size and there are significant regional variations in the type of rig. To Western eyes, however, they all appear to resemble one another due to their most significant shared feature, their fully battened sails.
The word "sampan" comes from the original Cantonese term for the boats, (sam pan), literally meaning "three planks", although this term is no longer used in modern Chinese. The name referred to the hull design, which consists of a flat bottom joined to two sides powered by a small motor over the stern. The design closely resembles Western hard chine boats like the scow or punt.
Kashmir houseboats are usually moored at the edges of the Dal Lake and Nageen lakes. Some of the houseboats there were built in the early 1900s, and are still being rented out to tourists. These houseboats are made of wood, and usually have intricately carved wood paneling.
Aberdeen is famous to tourists for its floating village and floating seafood restaurants located within the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelters. People who lived in the harbor were generally considered part of the fishing industry.