Variations: Pearl-turtle


The Zhubieyu, or Pearl-turtle, can be found in the Li River and Yu Lake, near Vine Mountain. This unusual fish or reptile looked like a lung (or otherwise a piece of dried meat) with four eyes and six legs. It contains and spits out pearls, and its flesh tastes sweet and sour. Zhubieyus are considered a delicacy, and eating them protects from seasonal epidemics and furunculosis.

Guo Pu marveled at the lot of these “floating lungs… Embodying Heaven, Earth, and Man”, and found irony in the fact that their own usefulness doomed them.

They appear to be softshell turtles. Mathieu describes them as “red softshells” or “pearled softshells”.


Mathieu, R. (1983) Étude sur la mythologie et l’ethnologie de la Chine ancienne. Collège de France, Paris.

Strassberg, R. E. (2002) A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. University of California Press.