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The Mermaid Story from China

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Mermaids are included in the Shanhaijing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) compilation of Chinese geography and mythology, dating from the 4th century BC. A 15th-century compilation of quotations from Chinese literature tells of a mermaid who “wept tears which became pearls”.

An early 19th-century book entitled Jottings on the South of China contains two stories about mermaids. In the first, a man captures a mermaid on the shore of Namtao island. She looks human in every respect except that her body is covered with fine hair of many colors. She can’t talk, but he takes her home and marries her. After his death, the mermaid returns to the sea where she was found.

In the second story, a man sees a woman lying on the beach while his ship was anchored offshore. On closer inspection, her feet and hands appear to be webbed. She is carried to the water, and expresses her gratitude toward the sailors before swimming away.

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