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Jingwei, from 17th century version of Shanhaijing. After original drawing by Hu Wenhuan.[1]

Jingwei (simplified Chinese: 精卫; traditional Chinese: 精衛; pinyin: jīngwèi) is the name of a character in Chinese mythology. Originally the daughter of the emperor Yandi, she perished at a young age in the East Sea. After her death she chose to assume the shape of a bird in order to exact revenge upon the sea by bringing stones and small twigs from the mountains nearby over the sea in an effort to fill it up. Jingwei even has a short dialogue with the sea where the sea scoffs her, claiming that she wouldn't be able to fill it up even in a million years, whereupon she claims that she will then proceed to take ten million years, even one hundred million years, whatever it takes to fill up the sea so that others would not have to perish as she did.

The story itself is recorded in the 山海经 Shan Hai Jing.

From this myth comes the Chinese expression 精卫填海 ("Jingwei filling the sea") meaning a symbol of dogged determination and perseverance in the face of seemingly impossible odds.

Professor Manyuan Long from the University of Chicago named a new Drosophilia gene after Jingwei[2] because it was - like the princess - 'reincarnated' with a new function and a new appearance (structure). Other related genes were named following the legend.


  1. ^ Yang, 154
  2. ^ Long, M., C. H. Langley 1993. Natural selection and the origin of jingwei, a chimeric processed functional gene in Drosophila. Science 260: 91-95.[1]


  • Yang, Lihui, et al. (2005). Handbook of Chinese Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-533263-6