放生 (fàngshēng) is the freeing of captive animals. Followers of Buddhism (佛教, fójiào) believe that all life is sacred and that human activity should be curtailed to avoid impacts to other life forms. In the village of 朱家角 (Zhūjiājiǎo) there is a bridge called 放生桥 （fàngshēng qiáo), in other words the “Release Animals Bridge”.
I never would have learned the name of the bridge, if it weren’t for some elderly ladies selling pet goldfish. They were friendly, but some what persistent. However, I couldn’t understand what they were saying, because they were speaking the local language, Shanghainese. So I asked some younger people (who could at least speak Mandarin), and I learned that they were selling the fish for “release”. I also learned that releasing the fish is an act of kindness that helps restore balance to life. Realizing that life is in desperate need of balance these days, I bought the fish. By then, a small crowd had gathered to watch me release the fish. Lots of photos were taken and new friends made.
Unfortunately, as I suspected, and according to a National Geographic article, this is not an ecologically sound practice. They are actually doing more harm than good. The scale of these releases in Asia and the US are massive. Fortunately, according to an Audubon article, there is a movement underway to educate people on how to release animals without damaging the ecosystem.