Legge used "Ospreys" to name the first poem in the Shijing. Karlgren often cites it that way, but his own translation leaves it as "ts'u - kiu  bird." (Book of Odes, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1950).  

Apparently  Zheng Qiao (1104--1162) said the birds were Mallard Ducks, which makes sense though I have not seen the source. Zhu Xi agreed with this, see his commentary on the Shijing, paragraph 2 of this.

According to this, a somewhat obscure line of the Mao commentary was taken to mean the birds are some kind of hawk (like Ospreys), while Lu Ji 陸機 (261–303) believed the birds were Cormorants, while Guo Pu (郭璞; AD 276–324) believed they were fish hawks (such as Ospreys).

3 Answers 3


Have a look here

This interested me too a while back.


关关雎鸠 should be 关关风头鸊鷉???

  • Is it 凤头鸊鷉 or 风头鸊鷉? 風頭鸊鷉 sounds like the bird has a lot of publicity. 鳳頭鸊鷉 (Crested Grebe) makes more sense
    – Tang Ho
    Mar 8, 2021 at 0:21
  • Sorry, I am not a bird expert. Follow the link for more info.
    – Pedroski
    Mar 8, 2021 at 0:55
  • It looks like a typo from the original text
    – Tang Ho
    Mar 8, 2021 at 1:08

“關雎” is an ancient poem, isn’t it?

I mean, we might treat it as a metaphor fuzzily, to save our life & time 😸

btw, there was a book named “毛詩品物圖攷”, written by a Japanese, in late 18 century; quite interesting:

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  • Certainly it is a metaphor. But LY 17:8 specifies one reason you should study the Shijing is to learn the names of birds. Mar 8, 2021 at 16:55
  • well, mr 莊 did say “吾生也有涯・而知也无涯・以有涯隨无涯・殆已” 🙀 life is short 😹 Mar 9, 2021 at 0:50

In short, the evidence is conjectural, all clear identifications of the birds are eastern Han or later, and all sources known to say anything specific about what 雎鳩 are, descend from the Shijing.

All the different interpretations cited in the question go back to the explanation of 雎鳩 in the Mao commentary Paragraph 4:


This just seems to say they are water birds monogamous for life. This could well be exactly correct to the original intent, but even this seems not based on other texts than the song itself. Rather it seems based the obvious river context of the song, plus the song using these birds as metaphor for a suitable match for a prince. Some people, not including Zhu Xi for example, think a 王雎 is an eagle.

The Chinese Text Project has a few Warring States and Western Han sources using 雎鳩 with no apparent connection to the Shijing or Analects, but none says anything identifying. I find no really comprehensible references to 雎鳩 from any date that do not derive from the Analects or directly from this first song in the Shijing.

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