Cicadas are fascinating insects that have captivated humans for centuries with their unique life cycle and characteristic song. In Chinese culture, the cicada holds a special place, symbolizing everything from rebirth and immortality to happiness and good fortune.
Cicada is an insect that belongs to the order Hemiptera and the suborder Auchenorrhyncha. They are commonly known for the loud buzzing or chirping sound that they produce, which is produced by males as a mating call. Cicadas have large eyes, short antennae, and membranous wings that are held roof-like over the body. They feed on the sap of trees and plants, and their nymphs (young) live underground and feed on the roots of plants.
Cicadas are found all over the world, but they are particularly common in warm and tropical regions. There are over 3,000 species of cicadas, and they come in many different sizes and colors. Cicadas are not harmful to humans, although their loud buzzing can be quite annoying. Some people even find the sound of cicadas to be soothing or relaxing. Cicadas have a fascinating life cycle that can last several years, and they are an important part of many ecosystems.
what is Chinese cicada called?
The Chinese word “知了” (zhī liǎo) refers to the cicada, and its scientific name is not “金蝉” (jīn chán), but rather Cicadidae, which is the family name for cicadas in the scientific classification system.
However, if we were to translate some of the common regional names for the cicada mentioned in the question into English, they would be:
It’s worth noting that these are not official or commonly used names in English, and their meanings may not be easily understood by someone who is not familiar with the Chinese language and culture.
types of cicadas in china
There are many different types of cicadas found in China, with varying appearances and behaviors. Some of the common species of cicadas found in China include:
Cryptotympana atrata: This species has a black body with white stripes on the wings and is commonly found in northern China.
Graptopsaltria nigrofuscata: This species has a black body with orange stripes on the wings and is found in many parts of China.
Meimuna mongolica: This species has a greenish-yellow body and is commonly found in northern and northeastern China.
Platypleura kaempferi: This species has a brown body and is commonly found in southern China.
Pomponia imperatoria: This species has a greenish-blue body and is commonly found in central and eastern China.
Tacua speciosa: This species has a brown body with green stripes on the wings and is commonly found in southern China.
Tibicen plebejus: This species has a black body with orange stripes on the wings and is commonly found in central and eastern China.
These are just a few examples of the many types of cicadas found in China. Cicadas play an important role in the ecosystem and are often seen and heard during the summer months.
cicada symbol in Chinese culture
Cicadas have been an important symbol and cultural icon in China for centuries. Here are a few ways in which cicadas are significant in Chinese culture:
Symbol of summer: Cicadas are often associated with the hot summer months in China, as they are known for their loud buzzing sounds that can be heard during this time.
Symbol of longevity: In Chinese culture, cicadas are sometimes associated with longevity and immortality. This is because cicadas are known to emerge from the ground after many years of being buried, which may be seen as a metaphor for rebirth and renewal.
Symbol of rebirth: Cicadas undergo a process of metamorphosis, in which they shed their skin and emerge as adults with wings. This process of transformation has been seen as a symbol of rebirth and renewal in Chinese culture.
Poetic inspiration: Cicadas have been the subject of many poems and works of literature in China, and they are often seen as a source of inspiration for poets and writers.
Collectible item: Cicada shells, which are left behind after the cicadas molt, are sometimes collected and used as decorative items or as part of traditional Chinese medicine.
According to different factors such as the phonetic characteristics, habits, and individual features of cicadas, people have attributed different symbols and meanings to them. These include:
Symbol and meaning of “enduring love” and “abundant wealth”:
Cicada sounds like the Chinese word for “entangled,” so if a couple wears jewelry with “cicada” in it, it symbolizes “enduring love.” If a merchant wears a cicada jewelry around his waist, it symbolizes “abundant wealth.”
Symbol and meaning of “meditation, enlightenment, and high character”:
Cicada sounds like the Chinese word for “Zen,” so wearing a cicada is a symbol of “meditation, enlightenment, and high character.” Cicadas feed on dew, which is considered the purest and cleanest thing, so cicadas are also used to symbolize a person’s pure and high character.
Symbol and meaning of “fame and fortune,” “astonishing achievement,” and “contentment”:
Cicadas are good at “singing,” which is unique and special, so people associate cicadas with “astonishing achievement.” Students wear cicada jewelry as a symbol of academic success. “Singing” also sounds similar to the word “name” in Chinese, so cicadas are often paired with lychees to symbolize “fame and fortune.”
Cicadas also sound like the Chinese word for “knowing,” and bamboo sounds like the word for “enough,” so cicadas and bamboo are used together to symbolize a life attitude of “contentment.”
Overall, cicadas are a beloved and significant part of Chinese culture, and they have been celebrated in many different ways throughout history.
autumn cicada meaning in Chinese culture
Autumn cicadas, also known as cold cicadas, are known by various names such as evening cicadas, cicada singing, and cicada weeping. They are cicadas that appear in deep autumn.
As the autumn wind rises, the cold cicadas become too weak to sing continuously. They may let out short, sorrowful cries that mourn their own impending death, reflecting a sense of sorrow and hardship.
The sound of the autumn cicada’s song is also associated with the melancholy feeling of the changing seasons and the passage of time. This association has been expressed in many works of Chinese literature and poetry, which often use the image of the autumn cicada to evoke a sense of nostalgia for the past and a longing for something lost.
In fact, the mournful song of the cold cicadas in autumn is a song of sadness for all living things as the season brings an end to life. Throughout the history of Chinese literature, poets, travelers, melancholic women, poor officials, and persecuted people have all been touched by the sorrowful cry of the cold cicadas. Many poems and essays with the theme of “autumn” have either used cicadas as metaphors or expressed self-pity through the sound of their weeping.
cicada in Chinese history
Cicadas have a significant presence in Chinese history and culture, appearing in literature, art, and even in the form of decorative objects. One of the earliest mentions of cicadas in Chinese history dates back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE), where they were considered a symbol of resurrection and rebirth due to their shedding of exoskeletons.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), cicadas were a popular subject in poetry, with poets using the insect to symbolize the transience of life and the beauty of impermanence. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), cicadas were also used in paintings and carvings, often depicted alongside other insects and animals.
In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties, cicadas continued to hold a prominent place in Chinese culture, with their image appearing on ceramics, jade carvings, and other decorative objects. The cicada’s association with rebirth and transformation remained an important theme, and the insect was often used as a symbol of hope and renewal.
Overall, cicadas have been an important part of Chinese culture for centuries, representing themes of rebirth, impermanence, and the beauty of nature.
cicada shell in Chinese
Cicada shells, known as “chánchóng” (蟬蟲) in Chinese, have a long history and cultural significance in Chinese tradition. In ancient times, people used to collect cicada shells and attach them to their hats or clothes as a decoration.
Cicada shells are also used in traditional Chinese medicine, where they are believed to have cooling and detoxifying properties, and can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including high fever, sore throat, and skin infections.
In Chinese mythology, cicada shells are associated with the idea of immortality, as cicadas are known for their ability to shed their skins and emerge anew. In Taoist belief, cicadas represent the idea of transformation and rebirth, and are often depicted in art and literature as symbols of spiritual awakening and transcendence.
Overall, the cicada shell holds a special place in Chinese culture, representing themes of transformation, rebirth, and immortality.
jade cicada in Chinese history
Because of the cicada’s familiarity and closeness in our lives, it has been a popular decorative motif in ancient Chinese material culture. As early as the late Neolithic period about 4,000 years ago, the colored jade cicada was unearthed in the Hubei Shijiahe culture. The craftsmanship is very delicate, with eyes specifically depicted on the cicada body, swirling cloud patterns on the neck, and back and wing patterns carved below the neck. Since the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the jade cicada image and cicada patterns on bronze vessels have appeared extensively, becoming one of the typical patterns of Shang and Zhou bronze vessels. Most jade cicadas from this period were worn as pendants, with simple knife techniques and antique, rough shapes. In contrast to the flat jade cicadas unearthed in Shijiahe, the jade cicadas found in the Fu Hao tomb of Henan Yin Ruins were carved in the round, with protruding eyes created by convex carving techniques, and curved or parallel engraved lines depicting the back, wings, and tail. A circular hole runs from the front of the head to the abdomen, indicating that it was meant to be worn as a pendant. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period, the increasing popularity of ironworking greatly improved the jade carving technique, with clear, fine lines combining to create extremely exquisite patterns. However, the number of jade cicadas unearthed during this period is not very large, and most are half-round carvings with bulging eyes, convex backs, and vivid and lifelike shapes.
During the Han Dynasty, Chinese jade culture entered an important turning point. Influenced by Confucianism’s beliefs that “a nobleman has no reason to remove jade from his body” and “a nobleman uses jade to compare with his virtues,” jade objects reached their peak in Han society’s ritual activities, funeral customs, and everyday use. The “Jade Virtue Theory,” a Confucian classic, was formed, and the jade cicada was a particularly special kind of jade object in this theory. Archaeological findings indicate that more than 120 jade cicadas from the Han Dynasty have been found, distributed in more than ten provinces, including Shaanxi, Hebei, Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, and Guangdong, reflecting the widespread influence of jade cicada culture.
Scholars have classified Han Dynasty jade cicadas into four types based on their characteristics: cocoon-shaped egg-shaped, plain and simple, multi-angular mature, and rough and simple. Among them, the multi-angular mature type is the most exquisite, and two of the most representative Han Dynasty jade cicadas are preserved in the Shaanxi History Museum. They were unearthed at an archaeological site in the eastern suburbs of Xi’an, with one large and one small in size and a jade color of bluish-white. Compared with early jade cicadas, the cicada body is thinner and more prominent on the edges, with simple lines depicting the cicada’s eyes, beak, neck, plain wings, and triple tips at the tail (two wingtips and a tail tip) in just a few strokes. The whole piece is carved with a knife, with sharp edges and corners, making them two extremely typical “Han Eight Knife” jade cicadas.
jade cicada meaning
In Chinese culture, the jade cicada is a symbol of immortality, rebirth, and spiritual transcendence. The cicada is a common insect in China, and its image has been used in various forms of art and literature for thousands of years.
Jade, which is considered the most precious stone in Chinese culture, has also been highly valued for its beauty and spiritual significance. The combination of the cicada and jade represents the union of two powerful symbols, creating a powerful talisman that is believed to bring good luck and protection to its wearer.
In ancient China, it was believed that the cicada had the power to transform itself and emerge from its old shell as a new and more beautiful creature. This concept of rebirth and transformation is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, and it is believed that wearing a jade cicada can help to bring about positive changes in one’s life.
The jade cicada is also associated with the concept of immortality, which has been an important theme in Chinese mythology and religion for thousands of years. It is believed that by wearing a jade cicada, one can tap into the power of the universe and attain spiritual transcendence, ultimately achieving immortality.
In addition to its spiritual significance, the jade cicada is also a popular decorative item in Chinese art and jewelry. It is often carved from high-quality jade, and its intricate details and delicate features make it a highly prized and valuable piece.
Overall, the jade cicada holds a special place in Chinese culture, representing the transformative power of nature, the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, and the enduring beauty of life. Whether worn as a talisman or admired as a work of art, the jade cicada continues to inspire and captivate people around the world, symbolizing the timeless values and traditions of Chinese culture.
cicada in Chinese mythology
In Journey to the West, we often hear demons say that Tang Sanzang is the reincarnation of the Golden Cicada, so what is the Golden Cicada? We can learn about it from the perspective of the Buddha.
In fact, the Golden Cicada is just a cicada that lives on the bodhi tree where the Buddha was enlightening. The cicada was always with him during his enlightenment.
Therefore, the Buddha enlightened the cicada and later recruited him as his second disciple.
As the Buddha’s second disciple, the Golden Cicada still holds a high position in Buddhism.
However, when he was on Ling Mountain, he fell asleep while the Buddha was preaching.
As a result, the Buddha sent him to learn in the lower world as punishment.
Sun Wukong in Journey to the West also seems to know why Tang Sanzang fell asleep while the Buddha was preaching.
At that time, Sun Wukong said: “Master has not heard the Buddha’s preaching. He fell asleep, stepped on a grain of rice with his left foot, and went down to the lower realm, where he will suffer from this disease for three days,” meaning that Tang Sanzang was punished for helping the Golden-Haired Rat steal fragrant rice from Ling Mountain at night and falling asleep during the day.
In fact, there is also a theory that the Golden Cicada was banished to the mortal world not because he actually made a mistake, but because the Buddha found an excuse to be reborn as a Buddhist, spreading Buddhism to the East.
The Golden Cicada was reincarnated into the East and began a long journey to obtain the scriptures. Originally, he thought it would take a lifetime to achieve this great ambition, but he never thought it would take ten lifetimes.
In fact, setting Tang Sanzang as the reincarnation of the Golden Cicada is to introduce the folk legend of the “golden shell”, which means immortality. This is why Tang Sanzang’s flesh is made into a dish that can make people immortal. Otherwise, the flesh of most immortals does not have this function.
So why was the Golden Cicada banished to the mortal world to obtain the scriptures?
The Buddha is the spiritual leader of the Buddhist world. How could he banish the Golden Cicada, who was his second disciple, to the mortal world just for a small mistake?
This has to do with the historical background of the time.
At that time, it was the Tang Dynasty, and Li Shimin was originally from Taoism. His ancestors could be traced back to Laozi.
Therefore, Taoism dominated the society of the Tang Dynasty, and other ideologies were struggling to survive.
Tang Sanzang’s journey to the West to obtain the scriptures spread Buddhism along the way, saving and enlightening people, and increasing the influence of Buddhism.
In addition, in chapter 11 of the novel, Tang Emperor Li Shimin was entangled by vengeful ghosts in the underworld, and Tang Sanzang’s appearance made Li Shimin more respectful of Buddhism.
So it can be seen that the reason why the Golden Cicada was banished for his mistake was not the main reason. It was because he was able to take on the important task of spreading Buddhism that he was sent to the mortal world.
cicada sound in Chinese culture
Cicada sounds have a significant place in Chinese culture and are often associated with the arrival of summer. In traditional Chinese belief, the cicada’s ability to shed its skin and emerge renewed and transformed symbolizes rebirth and immortality. The cicada is also a popular subject in Chinese art and literature, with many poems and paintings depicting the insect.
In addition to its symbolic importance, the sound of cicadas is also admired for its beauty. In ancient Chinese literature, cicada sounds are often described as “the sound of jade pendants tinkling” or “the sound of silk being torn.” This reflects the belief that the cicada’s song is not only pleasant to the ear but also has a refined quality that is reminiscent of precious materials.
In some regions of China, the sound of cicadas is also associated with luck and fortune. It is believed that hearing the sound of cicadas during important events or at auspicious times can bring good fortune and prosperity.
Overall, the cicada and its sound have played an important role in Chinese culture for centuries, serving as a symbol of renewal, beauty, and luck.
meaning of cicada in feng shui
In Feng Shui, the cicada is considered a symbol of immortality, rebirth, and longevity. It is believed to represent the process of shedding the old and embracing the new, much like the cicada sheds its old shell to become a new creature. Here are some specific meanings associated with the cicada in Feng Shui:
Symbol of Immortality: The cicada is often depicted in Chinese art as a symbol of immortality. It is believed that the cicada can live for many years and represents the idea of living a long and healthy life.
Protection from Evil: In Feng Shui, the sound of the cicada is believed to repel evil spirits and provide protection to the home. Cicada amulets or charms can be placed in the home to provide this protection.
Career Advancement: In Chinese culture, the cicada is also associated with career advancement and success. Placing a cicada figurine or picture in the office or workspace is believed to bring good luck and help with career development.
Love and Relationships: The cicada is also considered a symbol of love and relationships. It is believed that placing a cicada figurine in the bedroom can help attract a partner and improve existing relationships.
Overcoming Obstacles: The cicada is associated with overcoming obstacles and achieving success despite difficult circumstances. It is believed that the cicada’s ability to emerge from its shell symbolizes the ability to overcome challenges and achieve personal growth.
In Feng Shui, the cicada is often depicted in art, and cicada-shaped amulets or charms can be found in many Feng Shui shops. Whether used for protection, career advancement, or personal growth, the cicada is a powerful symbol with a rich history in Chinese culture.
cicada in yin and yang
In Chinese philosophy, the concept of Yin and Yang represents the dualistic nature of the universe. It is believed that everything in the world can be divided into two opposing yet complementary aspects: Yin and Yang.
Cicadas are often associated with the Yang aspect, which represents masculine energy, activity, and positivity. Cicadas are known for their loud and persistent singing, which is often heard during the hottest days of summer. In this sense, cicadas are seen as a symbol of vitality, energy, and renewal.
On the other hand, cicadas also have a Yin aspect, which represents feminine energy, passivity, and receptivity. When a cicada sheds its exoskeleton and emerges as a new adult, it goes through a process of transformation that is similar to the concept of rebirth or reincarnation. This aspect of cicadas is associated with the Yin aspect of nature, which represents the cyclical and transformative nature of life.
In Chinese culture, cicadas are often depicted as a symbol of immortality and resurrection. The cicada’s ability to shed its skin and emerge as a new adult is seen as a metaphor for the process of transformation and renewal that is essential for achieving immortality in Taoist philosophy.
In feng shui, the cicada is also believed to bring good luck and prosperity. Cicada motifs are often used in traditional Chinese art and decoration, such as jade carvings, embroidery, and furniture. The cicada is also associated with the element of fire, which represents passion, creativity, and transformation.
Overall, the cicada represents a balance of Yin and Yang energies in Chinese culture, and is seen as a symbol of vitality, transformation, and good luck.
cicada in five elements
In Chinese philosophy, the Five Elements theory (五行 wǔxíng) describes the basic elements of the natural world: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each element has a corresponding aspect of nature, a direction, a color, and a season associated with it. The Cicada is also linked to the Five Elements theory in Chinese culture.
According to the theory of Five Elements, Cicada is associated with the element of Fire. In traditional Chinese medicine, Cicada is believed to have a hot nature and can be used as an herbal remedy to treat conditions associated with excess cold, such as arthritis and rheumatism.
Furthermore, Cicada is also believed to have a strong connection to the element of Water. Cicada spends most of its life underground and emerges only during the hot summer months, symbolizing the cycle of water, which is often associated with life and nourishment. In this sense, Cicada represents the potential for growth and regeneration that comes with the cycle of the seasons.
In summary, the Cicada is a symbol that is rich in meaning in Chinese culture, and its associations with the Five Elements theory are just one example of how it is deeply woven into the fabric of Chinese philosophy and symbolism.
cicada inChinese medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the cicada has been used as a medicinal ingredient for thousands of years. The cicada is considered a valuable resource in TCM because of its ability to shed its outer shell and transform into a new form, which symbolizes the process of transformation and regeneration.
Cicada molting is believed to produce a substance that has a cooling and calming effect on the body, making it useful for treating conditions such as fevers, convulsions, and anxiety. Cicada shells (Chantui) are commonly used in TCM to treat coughs, sore throat, and high fever.
According to TCM theory, the cicada shell has a bitter, sweet, and cold nature and is associated with the Lung, Liver, and Stomach meridians. It is said to have a sedative effect on the heart and is useful in calming the mind, making it helpful for treating insomnia, palpitations, and anxiety.
Cicada is also believed to have antitumor properties and can be used to treat cancer in TCM. Cicada slough (Chantui Ke) is said to be particularly effective in treating liver and lung cancers.
In summary, cicada is an important ingredient in TCM, and its medicinal properties have been recognized for thousands of years. It is primarily used to treat conditions related to the Lung, Liver, and Stomach meridians, with a focus on calming the mind, reducing fever, and treating coughs and sore throats.
cicada Chinese food
Cicadas have been consumed as food in some parts of China for centuries, particularly in the southern regions. The cicada is considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine and is often served during special occasions or festivals.
Cicadas are typically roasted or fried, and can be prepared in a variety of ways. They are often seasoned with spices such as chili powder, salt, or garlic, and can be served as a snack or used as an ingredient in other dishes. Cicada shells, which are the exoskeletons of the cicada, are also used in some traditional Chinese dishes.
cicada in Buddhism
In Buddhism, the cicada is a symbol of rebirth and immortality. This is because of its life cycle, where it goes through a transformation process, shedding its old skin and emerging as a new being.
In some Buddhist traditions, the cicada is also associated with the concept of impermanence, which is one of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism. The cicada’s life cycle serves as a reminder that all things are impermanent and subject to change.
Furthermore, the cicada is also seen as a symbol of perseverance and endurance. This is because of its ability to survive in harsh conditions and adapt to different environments. In Buddhism, these qualities are seen as important virtues for practitioners to cultivate in their spiritual journey.
In some Buddhist scriptures, such as the Lotus Sutra, the cicada is also mentioned as a metaphor for the Buddha’s teachings. Just as the cicada sheds its old skin to reveal a new form, the Buddha’s teachings are said to help individuals shed their ignorance and delusions to attain enlightenment.
In Buddhism, cicadas are associated with the cycle of birth and death, expressing the eternal nature of Buddha and the concept of reincarnation in Buddhism. In fact, the term “cicada crown” often appears in the literature of Buddhists.
Crown is the beginning of etiquette. In ancient times, cicada patterns were incorporated into crowns, placed in the center of the crown to indicate the wearer’s status and level, and to remind the wearer to be as pure and noble as cicadas, with the ability to “recognize changes in clarity and emptiness.” In funeral culture, “cicadas shed their skins in impurity” and can transform into immortals, communicating with spirits. Cicada patterns also hold a special place in this context.
Overall, the cicada holds significant symbolic meaning in Buddhism, representing rebirth, impermanence, endurance, and the Buddha’s teachings.
cicada in Taoism
In Taoism, the cicada is seen as a symbol of rebirth and immortality. The cicada’s life cycle, with its transformation from a nymph to a winged adult, is seen as a representation of the cyclical nature of life and death in Taoist philosophy.
The cicada’s shedding of its exoskeleton is also seen as a symbol of shedding one’s attachments and ego to achieve spiritual growth and transcendence. In Taoist art and literature, the cicada is often depicted as a spiritual symbol, sometimes appearing alongside images of the Taoist immortals.
Furthermore, the cicada’s song is also seen as a metaphor for the quest for spiritual enlightenment in Taoism. The cicada’s song, which is heard only during certain times of the year, is seen as a call to awaken the spiritual self and to seek the deeper truths of the universe.
In short, the cicada holds a significant place in Taoist symbolism, representing the concepts of rebirth, transcendence, spiritual growth, and the cyclical nature of existence.
cicada in Confucianism
In Confucianism, the cicada (蜩 tiáo) is often used as a metaphor for the concept of “renewal” or “rebirth.” This is because the cicada undergoes a transformation process, shedding its old skin and emerging anew as a fully-formed adult insect. This process is seen as a symbol of rebirth and transformation in Confucian thought.
In addition, the cicada is also used to represent the concept of filial piety, which is a central value in Confucianism. The cicada is known for its loud, piercing song, which is said to be a way of showing respect to its parents. In the same way, filial piety requires children to honor and respect their parents, even when it is difficult or inconvenient to do so.
The meaning of “知之为知之，不知为不知，是知也” is “To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.” This quote from Confucius’ “Analects” emphasizes the importance of honesty and sincerity in learning and in life. Similarly, the cicada, also known as “zhiliao” in Chinese, symbolizes knowledge and wisdom, representing the idea that one who listens attentively to their studies will achieve academic success and progress in life.
Overall, the cicada is an important symbol in Confucianism, representing concepts such as renewal, transformation, and filial piety.
cicada in Chinese funeral customs
In Chinese funeral customs, cicadas are seen as a symbol of the soul’s rebirth and immortality. The belief is that when a person dies, their soul is transformed and can take on a new life, just as a cicada sheds its old skin to emerge in a new form.
Cicadas are often depicted in funeral art, such as on mourning clothes, funeral banners, and tombstones. The sound of cicadas is also considered to be a sign of the presence of spirits or ancestors, and is sometimes interpreted as a message from the afterlife.
In some regions of China, cicada shells are placed in the mouths of the deceased, symbolizing the shedding of the mortal body and the rebirth of the soul. The shells may also be placed on the coffin or in the grave as an offering to the deceased.
Overall, the cicada is a powerful symbol in Chinese funeral customs, representing the cycle of life and death, and the belief in the immortality of the soul.
Cicadas in Chinese painting
Cicadas have been a popular subject in Chinese painting for centuries and are often depicted in a variety of styles and contexts.
In traditional Chinese painting, cicadas are often depicted as symbols of summer and the arrival of the hot season. They are also associated with the idea of immortality and the transience of life, as cicadas are known to have short lifespans.
In some paintings, cicadas are portrayed as part of a landscape or nature scene, sitting on a branch or in a field. They can also be depicted as part of a larger composition, such as a group of insects or animals. Some artists have used cicadas as a symbol of perseverance, as they are known for their ability to survive harsh environments and outlast other creatures.
Cicadas are also a popular subject in Chinese ink paintings, where they are often rendered in a loose, flowing style with bold brushstrokes. The cicada’s distinctive shape and markings lend themselves well to this style, and the use of black ink on white paper allows the artist to convey a sense of depth and texture.
Overall, cicadas have been an important subject in Chinese painting for centuries, representing the beauty and fragility of life and serving as a symbol of nature and the changing seasons.
Cicadas in Chinese poetry
Sikong Shu: “The cicadas suddenly chirp today, do they feel sentimental for the migrant? I suddenly feel a year older, and countless emotions arise.”
Bai Juyi: “One hears sorrow and it accumulates, then listens again and homesickness arises. The cicada’s new voice by the Wei River, at first seems muddled and indistinct. Who listens at the Hengmen gate? In the evening, within the locust flowers.”
Liu Yuxi: “Before the cicadas make a sound, I already feel the passing of the years. Once their mournful cry reaches my ears, it’s like hearing a broken and incomplete tune.”
Meng Haoran: “The cool breeze arrives day and night, but hearing the cicadas only adds to my sorrow.”
Yuan Zhen: “The red tree cicadas fill the evening sun with their sound, and we, with white hair, bid each other farewell with sadness.”
Yong Yuzhi: “A single, clear note in the sultry heat, brings movement to my wandering body. A man of ambition’s heart is especially bitter, upon first hearing, alone and tearful.”
Liu Zhaoyu: “Do not disturb the waning sun with noisy sounds, I listen only in this foreign land.”
Lu Yin: “Deep within the high willows, turned away from the slanting sunlight, they can empathize with the loneliness of the past. They fear not that travelers will not turn their heads, again and again moving trees and flying sounds.”
Yao He: “Autumn arrives and my singing grows more bitter, half swallowed and half carried by the wind.”
Liu Yong: “The sound of the cold cicada is mournful and sharp, at the long pavilion in the evening, the sudden rain subsides.”
Liu Kezhuang: “Why play just one song at the Yong Gate, the sound of the cicadas expresses profound desolation.”
Cicada related idioms
金蝉脱壳（jīn chán tuō qiào）
“金蝉脱壳” is a Chinese idiom that originates from a historical story. It comes from a line in the second act of the play “Xie Tian Xiang” by Guan Hanqing: “Using every trick in the book, I can’t resolve the worries in my heart. I cannot find a single way to escape like a golden cicada shedding its shell.” Later, the phrase “金蝉脱壳” was derived from this.
During the Three Kingdoms period, Zhuge Liang led six unsuccessful campaigns to attack the Central Plains. In the last attempt, due to overexertion, he fell ill and died in the army. In order to prevent the Shu army from suffering losses on the way back to Hanzhong, Zhuge Liang secretly told Jiang Wei the method of a safe retreat before his death. After Zhuge Liang passed away, Jiang Wei blocked the news of his death and took his coffin to lead the army to retreat secretly.
At that time, the enemy fighting against the Shu army was the Wei army, and the leader of the Wei army, Sima Yi, sent troops to track the Shu army. When he found signs of their retreat, he quickly sent troops to pursue them. Before this, Jiang Wei had ordered the craftsmen to imitate Zhuge Liang’s appearance and carved a wooden figure holding a feather fan, sitting firmly on the carriage. On the way, Jiang Wei also sent Yang Yi to lead some soldiers to launch a pretended attack on the Wei army. The Wei army saw the orderly retreat of the Shu army and their grand display. They also saw Zhuge Liang sitting calmly on the carriage, not knowing what trick the Shu army was playing, so they dared not act recklessly.
Sima Yi knew that Zhuge Liang was “full of tricks” and was very suspicious of this retreat, thinking it was a trap. Therefore, he ordered the army to retreat and quietly observe the movement of the Shu army. Jiang Wei immediately took advantage of Sima Yi’s retreat and quickly moved the main force to safely retreat to Hanzhong. When Sima Yi learned that Zhuge Liang had passed away and wanted to pursue the Shu army again, it was already too late.
Therefore, “金蝉脱壳” means to escape a dangerous situation in a clever and unexpected way.
噤若寒蝉（jìn ruò hán chán）
The idiom “噤若寒蝉” originates from a historical story and is recorded in the “Book of Later Han” by the Southern Song Dynasty historian, Fan Ye. The literal meaning of the idiom is “silent like a cicada in cold weather,” which metaphorically refers to being too afraid to speak up and remain silent.
Du Mi, a famous minister in the Eastern Han Dynasty, was known for his ability to judge and appoint people, and for promoting the virtuous while exposing the corrupt. He was listed as one of the “Eight Geniuses” of his time, and was praised by students of the Imperial Academy as a “great assistant to the world.” Despite opposition from influential figures, Du Mi fearlessly spoke his mind and stood up for what was right. His unwavering integrity has made him a model for future generations to admire. In the face of right and wrong, people should have a clear stance, abandon their ideological baggage, speak the truth fearlessly, and be a person of integrity and outspokenness.
螳螂捕蝉黄雀在后（tángláng bǔ chán，huángquè zài hòu）
The idiom “praying mantis catching cicada, unaware of the oriole behind” is a compound sentence idiom derived from a fable, with its earliest reference found in “Zhuangzi – Mountain Trees”. Its original meaning is that the praying mantis catches the cicada but does not realize that the oriole behind it wants to eat it, and later it is used to metaphorically refer to harming others for personal gain without realizing that someone is scheming against them. It is commonly used as a subordinate clause in a sentence.
During the Spring and Autumn period, the King of Wu wanted to attack a neighboring country, but all his ministers advised against it. When the King became angry and threatened to kill anyone who opposed him, no one dared to speak up except for a clever child who had a plan. Every morning, the child would go to the palacegarden with a slingshot and a stone, stare up at a tree, and pretend to take aim at something. On the third day, the King saw the child and asked him what he was doing. The child pointed to a cicada on the tree and explained that a praying mantis was sneaking up on it, and behind the mantis, a sparrow was ready to pounce. The child then compared the cicada, mantis, and sparrow to the King, the neighboring country, and potential invaders, respectively. The King was convinced and abandoned his plan to attack.
Cicada pattern is one of the decorative patterns on ancient Chinese bronze, jade, and ceramic artifacts. According to “Shuowen Jiezi,” cicada means “an insect that makes a sound by rubbing its wings.” Cicada is also called “tiao” and appears in the poem “Dang” in the Book of Poetry, “Like tiao, like tang.” The Mao Xiang’s annotation explains that “tiao” means cicada. Tang is also a type of cicada, and the cold cicada is called “ni.” Cicada is a seasonal insect, and the Book of Poetry states in the “Qiufeng” section, “In May, the cicadas sing.” According to old stories, during the Han Dynasty, the attendant wore a cicada ornament on his hat, which represented the high status of cicadas, which live in high places and feed on dew, and are pure and precious.
The cicada pattern on bronze artifacts mostly takes the form of a triangular shape with drooping leaves, segmented stripes on the abdomen, and no feet, resembling a pupa, surrounded by cloud and thunder patterns. There are also elongated cicada patterns with feet, with cloud and thunder patterns as the ground pattern. Cicada patterns were prevalent during the late Yin and early Zhou dynasties and were mainly used to decorate the handles of tripods and wine vessels. Some gu and individual plates also have cicada patterns. The cicada pattern may have had a certain connection with food and washing, and its meaning is likely to symbolize the cleanliness of food and drink.
Cicadas are also called “fuyu,” as stated in the “Lunheng-Wuxing” chapter, “Fuyu turns into cicadas.” Cicada patterns without feet and resembling pupae may represent regeneration, suggesting the meaning of death and rebirth.
Cicada and Zhuangzi
“In the midst of holding a slingshot, Zhuangzi prepared to shoot the magpie, but then saw a cicada that had found a beautiful shade tree and forgotten about its own danger. A mantis hiding behind the cicada’s body seized it, and in the excitement of its capture, forgot its own peril. The magpie swooped in to take advantage of the situation and seized the mantis, but in its greed for gain, forgot about its own danger. Seeing this, Zhuangzi was astonished and said, ‘All creatures are entangled in one another, and this is all due to the calamities brought about by their mutual greed!’ He threw away his slingshot and turned to run.”
In Chinese culture, both the cicada (蝉) and the butterfly (蝴蝶) have significant symbolic meanings.
The cicada is often associated with rebirth and immortality because of its life cycle. Cicadas spend most of their lives underground as nymphs, then emerge as adults for a brief period of time to mate and lay eggs before dying. In Chinese mythology, the cicada is believed to represent the soul of the deceased or the rebirth of the spirit. It is also seen as a symbol of perseverance, as it endures years of living underground before finally emerging into the sunlight.
The butterfly, on the other hand, is a symbol of transformation and beauty. It goes through a dramatic metamorphosis, starting as a caterpillar before transforming into a chrysalis and then emerging as a butterfly. This process is often seen as a metaphor for the journey of self-discovery and transformation. In Chinese culture, the butterfly is associated with love and joy, and it is often used as a decorative motif in art and literature.
In summary, the cicada and butterfly represent different aspects of life and nature in Chinese culture. The cicada symbolizes perseverance and rebirth, while the butterfly represents transformation and beauty.
Cicada vs. bat
In Chinese culture, the cicada and the bat have contrasting symbolism.
The cicada is often associated with rebirth, longevity, and immortality. It is said that cicadas shed their skin and emerge as a new creature, which has led to their association with rebirth and transformation. In Chinese art and literature, cicadas are often depicted as symbols of immortality and transcendence.
On the other hand, the bat is often associated with good fortune, prosperity, and happiness. The Chinese word for bat (蝠, fú) sounds similar to the word for good fortune (福, fú), which has led to their association. In Chinese mythology, the bat is also believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.
Golden Toad vs. Golden Cicada
In Chinese culture, the golden toad and golden cicada are both considered auspicious symbols, but they have different meanings.
The golden toad (金蟾 jīn chán) is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Legend has it that the golden toad is a guardian of treasure and is often depicted with a coin in its mouth. In Feng Shui, it is believed that placing a golden toad in the home or business can attract wealth and good luck.
The golden cicada (金蝉 jīn chán) is also a symbol of good luck, but it is associated with immortality and rebirth. In Chinese mythology, the cicada is said to live for hundreds of years and shed its skin to be reborn. It is also believed to be a messenger between the mortal world and the world of immortals. In some Chinese dialects, the phrase “to shed the golden cicada skin” (金蝉脱壳 jīn chán tuō qiào) is used to describe a person who escapes danger or avoids trouble.
In conclusion, the cicada is a powerful symbol in Chinese culture, representing everything from rebirth and immortality to happiness and good fortune. Its distinctive life cycle and joyful song have captivated the imaginations of people for centuries, and its symbolism continues to resonate with people around the world today. Whether used as a talisman for good luck or as a symbol of the eternal spirit, the cicada remains an enduring symbol of the beauty and mystery of the natural world.
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