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Mythology

| 2017-09-21
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

精卫填海Jingwei is trying to fill up the sea
According to the Classic of Mountains and Seas, or Shan Hai Jing, a Chinese collection of myths and mythic geography compiled in the Pre-Qin Period, Jingwei is a crow-like bird with a motley head, white beak and red talons. The Bird is said to be the reincarnation of the drowned daughter of the Yan Emperor, a legendary ancient Chinese ruler in pre-dynastic times. She accidentally drowned herself in the East Sea. After being reincarnated, the bird tries to fill up the sea with twigs and pebbles.
This allusion is usually used to describe one’s determination and perseverance in achieving one’s purpose.

 

烂柯 Rotted axe-handle
This allusion originates from A Wonder Book compiled by Ren Fang (460-508). According to the book, Wang Zhi was a woodcutter in the Jin Dynasty. One day, Wang Zhi went to cut wood in the mountains. There he encountered several kids who were playing weiqi, also known as go. Wang then stepped forward to watch the game. The kids gave Wang a jujube-core-shaped object to eat so he would not feel hungry. After watching for a while right before he was about to leave, Wang realized that the handle of his axe had rotted. When Wang Zhi returned to his village, he found out that the people he knew had all passed away for centuries. It turned out centuries had passed as he watched the game.
The allusion is usually used to describe tremendous changes, the long years of being away from one’s homeland or the feeling that time flies fast. In his poems, Liu Yuxi (772-842) in Tang Dynasty wrote “When returning to my homeland, I feel like a man with his rotted axe-handle.” The allusion is also used in issues related to go chess.