Xian-He: Crane birds Symbolism Meaning In Chinese Mythology Culture

The crane is placed in high regard in Chinese culture, and this bird is venerated as the prince of all the feathered creatures or birds, which gives the bird its legendary status.

The crane is considered a symbol that embodies peace and longevity, and it’s the second-most popular bird after the symbol. So, throughout the imperial times, the crane motifs have been incorporated on the robes of different civil officials, and it depicts their ranks in their imperial government.

The high status of the crane also comes from the bird’s ability to fly so high, especially over very long distances. The wings are also important and are used as important amulets that offer protection against exhaustion.

But the crane is not just one of the most loved birds of China since ancient Chinese times; it is also an important symbol of noble character and also represents longevity.

The crane is a romantic bird too, and it is a symbol of long-lasting love, as well as loyalty in marriage. The crane is also a unique bird in that it is monogamous, and unlike other birds, stays with just one partner until its death.

Different Kinds Of Cranes Birds

Red-Crowned Crane

red-crowned crane symbolism

The red-crowned crane is the most popular type of crane that is seen in most Chinese paintings. It is the largest and also the heaviest of the cranes, and also the bird that lives the longest, boasting a lifespan of between 30 and 40 years, living in the wild, and could live for up to 75 years. The bird is heavily threatened, though, and is now considered an endangered species, and it’s listed as one of the birds on China’s 1st class birds under national protection.

This bird is associated with and represents longevity and also eternal youth. With the bamboo, the red-crowned crane is the emblem of nobleness and purity.

In Chinese myths, for example, the immortals were depicted as riding, red-crowned cranes.

The other types of cranes are as follows:

  • Siberian Crane which is critically endangered
  • A black-necked crane which is vulnerable
  • Hooded cranes also vulnerable
  • White-naped crane, which is also vulnerable
  • Sarus crane that is also vulnerable
  • Eurasian crane
  • Demoiselle crane
  • Sandhill crane

Note that there are a total of 15 species of cranes across the world, and 9 of these species are in China.

How Many Cranes In China?

crane bird pictures

The crane is a bird that is listed as one of the endangered bird species in the world, and there is a general population made of only 1830 birds all in the wild.

What Does Crane Mean In Chinese Culture?

crane bird painting

As mentioned above, the crane is an important symbol in Chinese culture. The reason for this is the fact that that bird is held in high regard by the Chinese. This happens because of the following reasons:

The cranes, also called herons, are legendary symbols of peace and longevity. The bird is also a highly favored bird that is ranked second after the phoenix.

This bird symbolizes eternal youth, thanks to the fact that the bird lives for many years, unlike other birds. Most cranes live for up to 40 years, but others have been known to live for up to 75 years.

The crane also symbolizes purity and nobleness.

Crane Symbolism China

To reiterate the symbolism of the crane above, this bird is important to the Chinese because it symbolizes longevity, long-lasting love, and loyalty in relationships and marriage, and lastly, it is seen as a symbol of loyalty. Over the years, the bird has gained legendary status.

The crane motifs incorporated in the robes of the officials were used to show the ranks of the officials.

Crane In Chinese Mythology

chinese crane art

According to Chinese mythology, there are 4 main types of cranes – the white, blue, black, and yellow cranes. But the birds are more than color, with their settings and postures just as important.

It is believed that the cranes with their wings stretched out, with just one leg raised, represent longevity.

And when the birds are shown under the pine trees with a spotted deer nearby, the bird often symbolizes prolonged life.

Cranes among the peony flowers represent longevity and prosperity.

And the cranes on the lotus flowers symbolize longevity and purity.

On the other hand, a Chinese crane that is pictured or shown to be flying toward the sun is considered a symbol of social advancement. Then the crane seen perched on the rock overlooking the sun represents important authority figures that see everything.

Two cranes flying or walking toward each other also symbolize longevity.

And because the cranes fly up in the clear blue skies above the dusty earth, the cranes have largely been considered the symbols of purity and cleanliness.

It is also believed that when Taoist priests were on their deathbeds, people would turn the scene into a feathered crane. And to this day, the Chinese still believe that the cranes are special birds carrying the spirits to the heavens after people die. So, with such a highly revered status, the cranes were considered in décor, including in art pieces and in carpets.

The cranes incorporated in the Chinese arts and in antique carpets were all of great mythical significance and also quite a symbol, depending on their settings.

Crane In Chinese Poetry

Chinese poetry celebrates the crane and considers the bird an important mythical creature that represents religion, peace, purity, and longevity, as well as beauty, grace, and harmony.

The bird also symbolizes balance and harmony, and it also teaches about the importance of respect and that we have to give respect to gain respect.

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