I, among others, do not understand why this word would be chosen for jellyfish. Is a jellyfish held in regard as some sort of cultural/spiritual analogue ?

A mother tries to be everywhere at once like all the tentacles of a jellyfish?

I have also seen that this word means Medusa, but Medusa can also be 美杜莎.

Which is more common?

2 Answers 2


Wow it's a fascinating question. I have never thought about that before and this question intrigues me. Because it's a two characters word, meaning that it definitely has an origin, not like the word 猪 for example, which just reassembles the image of a pig.

After searching a while and came across many different sources and non-senses, you might actually be right. The earliest usage, that I can find, of the word 水母 means the goddess of water. First used in 先秦, which is the period from 221BC to the possible known beginning of China.

However the first record of using this word, again that I can find, appeared in Verses of Chu 楚辞, which is a collection of poets of a greater period of time. The word came from 王襃.九懷.思忠, written as:「玄武步兮水母,與吾期兮南榮。登華蓋兮乘陽,聊逍遙兮播光。」The author 王襃 was living at the time around 6 century AD (possibly 513 - 576). The word 水母 in this poet means the same, the goddess of water.

A more recent variation of the goddess, is called 水母娘娘, or the Old Mother of Water

According to Chinese folklore, she is responsible for submerging Sizhou/泗州 (an ancient Chinese city located in today’s Jiangsu/江苏 Province) under the waters of lake Hongze Lake/洪泽湖 in 1574 A.D. and is currently sealed at the foot of a mountain in Xuyi/盱眙 District.[1]

So my best guess is when people saw this amazing creature in the sea, they would see it as an avatar of the goddess of water, and thus call it 水母.

We also call it 海蜇 nowadays, but this word feels more like "beef", while 水母 feels like "cow" or "bull". Both names are quite common to use.

Also, in 本草纲目, it's called 海䖳.

I have never seen this word being used as Medusa.


  1. Werner, Edward Theodore Chalmers (1922). Myths and Legends of China (PDF). Courier Corporation. pp. 166–168.
  • how could 海蜇 sounds "beef", whilst 水母 sounds like "cow" or "bull"?
    – dan
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 2:08
  • 2
    bkrs:海蜇 Rhopilema esculenta, an edible jellyfish,on the other hand 蜇 means sting (noun,verb)
    – user6065
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 2:15
  • I see thinks a little bit differently now
    – Abe Shudug
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 5:13
  • This is how you remind me.
    – Abe Shudug
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 5:51
  • I will make it a reality that I can cite such Classics. I thank you real.
    – Abe Shudug
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 6:56

in the book "嶺表録異" by 劉恂 of 唐 dynasty (618-907)



which gives a clear description of jellyfish.

enter image description here

  • I will respond when I can appropriately, I actually think I feel like starting from the beginning, so I probably will
    – Abe Shudug
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 5:25
  • 托福刚才我刚才实现杏仁奶(茶)有好多高热量 其实,实因为上次我盗。 还 有 我想起来原来的意义就是问你“Is that Southern Min script?" 皿 还 有 我想起来下实应该量 文后觉得道 叮
    – Abe Shudug
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 5:48
  • I thought that Kabutops isn't Kansas...haha S 佧步高S reminds me of my self, of those friends and of 水母.
    – Abe Shudug
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 6:53
  • haha ..man, I Just want to read the Script. I only now read a part of the text included with your post..it sounds like Guangdong does not like jellyfish???
    – Abe Shudug
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 7:00
  • no lah, it should interpret as "southern natives" liked to eat jellyfish, that the text included receipt about how to cook it :) Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 7:33

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