Abstract：The fishing industry is a part of the social economy and its significance has loomed large in modern times. Research into the history of the Chinese fishery began in the late Qing dynasty, with History of Chinese Fishery by Shen Tongfang considered the first book in the field. The Chinese Fishery History, co-authored by Li Shihao and Qu Ruoqian in the Republic of China, had even greater influence. However, writing on fisheries in modern China speak more about the present than the past. Influenced by national crises, the modern books focus more on practical rather than historical value. After the 1990s, influenced by historical studies, research on fishery history has been more scientific and rational, gradually presenting the richness and significance of fisheries in Chinese history.
Affected by narrations of general history, traditional researches on fishery history mostly take the perspective of industry, divided into ancient fishery history and modern fishery history. Ancient fishery history emphasizes the development of the fishing industry in different time periods and various locations, focussing on fishing taxes, management of fishermen and fishing boats. Great changes have taken place in Chinese fisheries in modern times, and many researchers characterise these changes as ″modernization″ or ″transformation″. The modernization of the Chinese fishery is not only closely associated with local changes of politics, economy and society, but also largely a result of the introduction of western-related institutions as well as the spread of knowledge and technology. Correspondingly, modern fishery history focuses on ″transformation″, mainly discussing the development of fishing technologies, government impact on circulation of aquatic products, the changes of fishermen's organizations and fishing conflicts between China and other countries.
In the last decade or so, developments in environmental history, cultural history and historical anthropology, has expanded the research on Chinese fishery history from perspectives to objects. Some of the related achievements combine environmental history with fishery history. Some discuss the exploration of fishing resources in Chinese history and consumption of fish products. Some care more about survival conditions of fishermen and how they earn their living. Modern scholars have actively promoted research on water ownership and fishery rights, associated closely with the livelihoods of fishermen. the most remarkable recent researches have mainly focused on Hubei and Hunan area and the Poyang Lake area.
On the whole, the academic foundation of research on Chinese fishery history is still weak. Research literature on Ming and Qing dynasties are rich, but modern fishery history is not yet mature, while research on the collectivization period is growing slowly. Despite its obvious importance, research into the objects, markets and technologies are neglected by scholars. The trends of international study, influenced by environmental and global history, have also just begun its path and fisheries have become a significant perspective of reviewing human civilization. Therefore, as the research on Chinese fishery history improves, it can offer important reference to grasp the meaning of fisheries in the development of human civilization.