Merfolk or merpeople are legendary water-dwelling human-like beings. They are attested in folklore and mythology throughout the ages in various parts of the world.

Female merfolk may be referred to as mermaids, although in a strict sense mermaids are confined to beings who are half-woman and half-fish in appearance. Male merfolk are called mermen. Depending on the story, they can be described as ugly or beautiful.


This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in Japanese. (August 2019) Click [show] for important translation instructions. View a machine-translated version of the Japanese article. Machine translation like DeepL or Google Translate is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Consider adding a topic to this template: there are already 3,146 articles in the main category, and specifying|topic= will aid in categorization. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing Japanese Wikipedia article at [[:ja:人魚]]; see its history for attribution. You should also add the template ((Translated|ja|人魚)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.


The jiaoren ( "flood dragon people" or "shark people")[a] that appear in medieval writings are considered to be references to merfolk.[2][3]

Several types of beings which may fall under "merfolk" are mentioned in the Shanhaijing 山海经(Classic of Mountains and Seas) dating to the 4th century BC.

This mythical southern mermaid or merman is recorded in Ren Fang [zh]'s Shuyi ji [zh] "Records of Strange Things" (early 6th century CE).[5]

In the midst of the South Sea are the houses of the kău (Chinese: ; pinyin: jiao; Wade–Giles: chiao[6]) people who dwell in the water like fish, but have not given up weaving at the loom. Their eyes have the power to weep, but what they bring forth is pearls.[7]

Similar passages appear in other texts such as the Bowuzhi (博物志)(c. 290 CE).[8]

These aquatic people supposedly spun a type of raw silk called jiaoxiao "mermaid silk" or jiaonujuan "mermaid woman's silk". Schafer equates this with sea silk, the rare fabric woven from byssus filaments produced by Pinna "pen shell" mollusks.[9] Chinese myths also recorded this "silk" coming from shuiyang 水羊 "water sheep" or shuican 水蠶 "water silkworm".

In popular culture

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ The conception of them seems to have shifted from half-reptilian to half-fish in later periods.[1]


  1. ^ Nakano (1983), p. 143.
  2. ^ Sugimoto, Akiko (2006). Translated by William Wetherall. "Chasing the Moon (Part 9)" 追月記. Journal of the American Oriental Society. 42 (3): 40. Jiaoren (鮫人 mythical fish-human, mermaid, merman). website
  3. ^ Nakano (1983), p. 143; Matsuoka (1982), p. 49
  4. ^ Nakano (1983), p. 140.
  5. ^ Ren Fang, Shuyi Ji, second volume.:[4] "南海中有鮫人室水居如魚不廢機織其眼泣則出珠晉木𤣥虚海賦云天琛水怪鮫人之室" (translation quoted below).
  6. ^ Schafer 1967, pp. 217–218
  7. ^ Schafer 1967, p. 220
  8. ^ Zhang Hua 張華. "Book 2, "Foreigners" section; 卷之二「異人」". Bowuzhi 博物志 – via Wikisource. 南海外有鮫人,水居如魚,不廢織績,其眼能泣珠。
  9. ^ Schafer 1967, p. 221

See also