What Is Pigeon In Chinese Culture? (7 use in Ancient China)

Pigeons have a rich cultural significance in many societies, and Chinese culture is no exception. In Chinese traditions, pigeons hold various meanings and are deeply intertwined with history, folklore, and symbolism. Let’s explore the significance of pigeons in Chinese culture and how they have influenced different aspects of Chinese society.

what is a pigeon?

The pigeon is a bird with many different species and a variety of feather colors. It primarily feeds on grains. Homing pigeons can be used to deliver messages. Pigeons are also a symbol of peace. The pigeon is the common name for birds of the Columba genus. They have large wings and are adept at flying. There are many different pigeon breeds with feathers ranging in colors such as white, gray, and purplish-brown. They mainly feed on the seeds of cereal plants. Some pigeons can be trained to carry and deliver letters or messages. Pigeons are commonly used as a symbol of peace.

A pigeon is a type of bird belonging to the Columbidae family, known for its small to medium size and stout body. Pigeons are found worldwide and have been domesticated for thousands of years. They exhibit a variety of colors and patterns, with some breeds specifically bred for show purposes.

Pigeons have distinct physical features, including a compact body, short neck, and small head. They typically have strong wings and are capable of swift flight. Pigeons have a unique ability to navigate and find their way back to their roosting location, which has made them valuable as messenger birds and participants in pigeon racing.

In urban areas, pigeons are often seen in parks, plazas, and city streets. They are highly adaptable and feed on seeds, grains, fruits, and other food scraps. Pigeons are known for their cooing sounds, and they form social groups or flocks, often gathering in large numbers.

Due to their close association with human settlements, pigeons have been subject to both admiration and sometimes considered a nuisance. In various cultures, including Chinese culture, pigeons hold symbolic meanings and have historical significance in different aspects of society, such as art, literature, and spirituality.

Overall, pigeons are remarkable birds that have captured the fascination of humans for centuries. Whether as messengers, symbols of peace, or simply as a familiar sight in urban environments, pigeons have left an indelible mark on both natural and cultural landscapes around the world.

are there pigeons in China?

Yes, there are pigeons in China. Pigeons are found throughout the country, both in urban and rural areas. In cities, pigeons are a common sight in parks, plazas, and other public spaces. They are known to adapt well to urban environments and can often be seen perched on buildings or foraging for food in city streets.

In Chinese culture, pigeons have been associated with various symbolic meanings and have historical significance. They are considered symbols of peace, love, and loyalty. In ancient times, pigeons were also used as messenger birds, delivering important messages across long distances. The practice of pigeon racing, where pigeons are released from a specific location and race back to their home roost, is also popular in China.

Pigeons have been featured in Chinese art, literature, and poetry for centuries. They are often depicted as elegant and graceful birds, representing beauty and harmony. Additionally, pigeons are sometimes released during special occasions or ceremonies as a symbolic gesture.

Overall, pigeons are present in China and have cultural significance in various aspects of Chinese society. Their presence adds to the natural biodiversity of the country and their symbolism continues to resonate within the cultural fabric of China.

what is a pigeon bird called in China?

The pigeon,chinese called gezi, also known as “Bogu” or “Bo Pigeon,”in china. is a bird known for its excellent flying abilities. It has a small and delicate appearance and exhibits alertness and agility. Pigeons have a remarkable memory and possess both instinctual nesting desires and homing instincts. The ancient Chinese utilized these traits of pigeons and created the practice of “pigeon post,” establishing a historical form of “airmail” in ancient China. In the book “Kaiyuan Tianbao Yishi” by Wang Renyu during the Five Dynasties period, it is written: “When Zhang Jiuling was young, his family raised a group of pigeons. For correspondence with acquaintances, he would attach letters to the pigeons’ feet and release them to fly to the designated destinations. Jiuling regarded them as flying servants, and people at that time were amazed and fond of this practice.” Furthermore, since pigeons often carried messages of “peace and safety,” they have been associated with the symbolism of “peace and harmony.”

Pigeons had various other names in ancient times. Common ones include “Bogu,” “Feinu” (flying servant), “Baifeng” (white phoenix), “Feixue” (flying snow), and more. However, in the northern regions of Jin and Inner Mongolia, there is a special and distinctive name used: “Lou Lou.”

In the book “Kaiyuan Tianbao Yishi” by Wang Renyu during the Five Dynasties period, there is a record of “messenger pigeons”: “When Zhang Jiuling was young, his family raised a group of pigeons. For correspondence with acquaintances, he would attach letters to the pigeons’ feet and release them to fly to the designated destinations. Jiuling regarded them as flying servants, and people at that time were amazed and fond of this practice.” Zhang Jiuling was a politician and poet during the Tang Dynasty. He not only used messenger pigeons to deliver letters but also gave these pigeons a beautiful name – “Feinu” (flying servant).

how many type of pigeon in China?

Pigeons have a wide variety of breeds, with over 150 recorded in China alone. Some specific breeds include Fengweiqi, Yashan Jixue, Jinpian Yulan Gan, Liangchi, Kunxing, Yudaiquan, Pingfen Qiuse, Gexiu, Dawei, Xuetou, Dianzi, Dabai, Zaozi, Luhua Bai, Yingwubai, Jinyan Bai, Dingxiang, Qilin Ban, Dada, Saiming, Shegong, Gouyan, Taoyuhuan, Ziye Die, Quehua, Woyanggou, Shifu Shifu, and more. Additionally, there are other documented breeds such as Xuehua, Zijiang, Zao’er, Xiaohui, Liangtouwu, Fengtoubai, Yuchi, Daochuer, Daoshimao, Bozi, Gentouhua, Sikuaiyu, Yintailizi, and others. Based on their rarity, some of the more precious breeds include Lanpan, Qixing, Zhanyanhui, Qingmao, Tieniu, Baiwuniu, Bailu’er, Duanzui, Yuhuan, Tiechi, Wutou, Ziyuchi, Zidianzi, Ziwu, and Yingzui.

Here are the English translations for some specific breeds:

Majiaqiu Pigeon: It has a slim and elongated body, and it is not skilled in raising offspring, requiring foster pigeons for feeding.

Moderna Pigeon: It has a round and plump appearance, and there are three sizes: large, medium, and small.

Yanjingqiu Pigeon: It has large feet covered in feathers, with four different colors: red, yellow, blue, and black.

Huoqiu Pigeon: It has a large chest and is highly valued in terms of price.

Xuegu: It is easy to raise, has a naive appearance, and is the smallest pigeon in the world.

Here are some pigeon breeds:

Meat Pigeon: This breed is primarily raised for meat consumption. The meat is tender and flavorful, rich in amino acids and trace elements. Meat pigeons have a short breeding cycle, high meat yield, and require relatively less feed. It is a promising pigeon breed for commercial production.

Homing Pigeon: Homing pigeons have been used since ancient times. They are generally small in size, often with white feathers and rounded heads. They have excellent flying abilities and were historically used for delivering messages. Homing pigeons have a high breeding rate and agility, with a single pair capable of producing more than three pairs of squabs. They are not typically raised for meat consumption.

Shiqi Pigeon: This breed has a long body, rich plumage, and strong adaptability. It is tolerant of coarse feed and exhibits high meat and egg production rates. The eggs have high nutritional value, making them highly valued in the market. Shiqi pigeons are cherished for their tender meat, soft bones, and delicious taste.

Racing Pigeon: Racing pigeons are bred for competitive racing events. They can earn prestigious honors and badges when they win races, and they have high ornamental value. Racing pigeons often have beautiful feathers, and they have a promising future in the field of pigeon breeding.

where does pigeon in China?

Pigeons have a wide distribution and prefer temperate climates with abundant insect populations and adequate rainfall. They can be commonly seen in regions such as northern China, including Hebei, Shandong, Tianjin, Shaanxi, and Henan. These areas have a significant presence of pigeons, with a high rate of meat production, high breeding rates, and good overall productivity.

what does a pigeon symbolize?

The pigeon symbolizes peace, friendship, unity, and purity.

People use pigeons and olive branches to symbolize peace. The emblem of the “International Year of Peace” depicts a dove flying with olive branches in its beak, representing peace and friendship. In ancient times, pigeons were seen as messengers of love rather than peace. For example, in ancient Babylon, pigeons were considered the divine birds of the goddess of love and fertility, Ishtar.

In those times, young girls were referred to as “love doves.” The Bible also mentions pigeons: Noah released a dove from the ark to determine if the floodwaters had receded. The dove returned carrying an olive branch, indicating hope for humanity.

Peace and Love: In many cultures around the world, pigeons are regarded as symbols of peace and love. In Christianity, Islam, and Greek-Roman mythology, pigeons are seen as representations of love and peace. Pigeons are also commonly used to symbolize peace in various places worldwide. For instance, in front of the United Nations Headquarters, there is a solemn sculpture of a peace dove.

In November 1950, to commemorate the World Peace Conference held in Warsaw, Pablo Picasso eagerly drew a flying dove holding an olive branch. The renowned Chilean poet Pablo Neruda named it the “Peace Dove.” Since then, the dove has been officially recognized as a symbol of peace. As a messenger of peace, pigeons play an essential role in significant global events.

During events such as the 1990 Asian Games in China and the 25th Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, thousands of beautiful pigeons were released during the opening ceremonies, symbolizing the aspirations of the Chinese people and people around the world for peace, friendship, and unity.

pigeon bird meaning in Chinese culture

In China, pigeons symbolize trust and loyalty, representing harmonious family relationships due to their homing instinct and their ability to deliver messages. Therefore, these meanings are attributed to pigeons.

Prosperity and Happiness: In traditional Chinese culture, pigeons are also regarded as auspicious symbols. In local folklore, pigeons are believed to bring good luck and signify prosperity and happiness.

Love and Emotion: In modern culture, pigeons are also used as symbols to express love and emotions. For example, in movies and literary works, pigeons often appear as romantic symbols.

Lack of Reliability: “Pigeon,” as an internet slang term, originally referred to the release of white doves, symbolizing peace. Later, it developed an extended meaning in the online context, indicating deception, breaking promises, breach of trust, etc. It now commonly refers to the act of not keeping a commitment. In ancient times, pigeons were used for communication, and in one instance, two individuals agreed to exchange letters through pigeons. However, one person only released the pigeon without sending a message. The other person then complained, “Why did you only release a pigeon without fulfilling your promise?” Thus, the term “pigeon” emerged with this meaning.

Financial Scam: In the period of the Republic of China in Shanghai, there was a scam in which women would pose as maids or mistresses to their employers and then abscond with their belongings. This act was known as “pigeoning.”


The symbolism of White Doves

Firstly, the image of doves is very positive, as their white feathers evoke a sense of freshness and purity, making them a symbol of auspiciousness. Secondly, doves have gentle cooing sounds that do not disturb people, symbolizing gentleness, tranquility, and harmony. Additionally, doves are seen as symbols of love. In ancient China, pigeons were commonly used to express love. For example, the phrase “yuanyang biyi, geren tongxue” (meaning “mandarin ducks fly together, pigeons share a nest”) in the classic novel “Dream of the Red Chamber” highlights the use of pigeons as a symbol of love.

The meaning of pigeons flying from home

When a dove flies into our home, it symbolizes the arrival of good luck. In traditional Chinese culture, doves are seen as auspicious birds, and their presence signifies that good fortune is approaching. When a dove flies into our home, we should embrace a sense of gratitude, cherish this good luck, and let it bring us more happiness and joy.

The arrival of a dove into our home also represents family harmony. Doves are social animals, and their presence signifies a harmonious and united family. In modern society, family relationships have become increasingly complex, and relationships such as kinship, friendship, and love have become more fragile. When a dove flies into our home, we should cherish this harmony and let our family become our warmest haven.

The arrival of a dove into our home also represents freedom and peace. Doves are symbols of freedom, and their flight represents freedom and peace. In today’s world, peace is something we need most, and freedom is the foundation of peace. When a dove flies into our home, we should cherish this freedom and let it become the cornerstone of our lives.

The symbolism of a dove flying into our home is multifaceted, representing good luck, family harmony, freedom, and peace. When we see a dove flying into our home, we should approach it with a grateful mindset, cherish this happiness and joy, and let it bring us more beauty and hope.

pigeon eggs in Chinese Culture

Symbol of Good Fortune

Firstly, pigeon eggs are considered a symbol of good fortune in folklore. Pigeons are not only beautiful creatures but also have a rich cultural background. In Chinese culture, pigeons are associated with auspicious and positive meanings. Pigeon eggs, as the offspring of pigeons, also carry the same auspicious and positive symbolism.

Continuation of Life

Secondly, pigeon eggs symbolize the continuation of life. Whether for animals or humans, life is precious. Hatching pigeon eggs represents the process of pigeon growth. Therefore, pigeon eggs also represent the continuation of life, the efforts, and perseverance of life.

Harmony in the Family

In addition, there is a belief or legend related to pigeon eggs. Some people believe that hatching pigeon eggs at home signifies a harmonious family and improved relationships among family members. Although this belief lacks scientific evidence, it reflects people’s aspirations for a happy and harmonious life.

Culture and Heritage

Lastly, pigeon eggs hold cultural and heritage significance. Hatching pigeon eggs is a common activity in traditional Confucius academies and cultural centers. Students can experience the miracle of life by hatching and taking care of the eggs and pigeons. This traditional activity allows the younger generation to understand traditional culture and helps in the inheritance of the essence of Chinese culture.

how pigeon find their way to home?

Reason 1: It was once believed that pigeons navigate based on magnetic field detection. Due to the relatively limited technology at the time, this theory remained unconfirmed for a long time. It was not until 2013 that researchers finally provided evidence supporting this claim. Above the pigeon’s eyes, there is a structure capable of sensing magnetic fields, which functions similar to a compass. After birth, pigeons develop a sensitivity to the local magnetic field and become accustomed to its characteristics. They form a distinct coordinate in their memory associated with their frequent habitat. Even when flying a long distance, pigeons can still sense this coordinate and use the magnetic field as a navigation tool to find their way back home.

Reason 2: In addition to magnetic field detection, pigeons have other factors that contribute to their homing abilities. Pigeons are naturally home-oriented creatures, and once they leave their home, they experience a sense of unease, motivating them to return home as soon as possible.

Reason 3: Scientists have also discovered that pigeons can use the sun as a reference point to determine their direction. They can establish a fixed sense of direction based on the sun’s position, aiding them in finding their way home. However, during thunderstorms or adverse weather conditions, pigeons may lose their sense of direction. The absence of the sun and the disruptive effects of thunder and rain can impact the magnetic field, leading to pigeons losing their way. This is why we often encounter lost pigeons, as they become disoriented when the magnetic field is disrupted.

how do homing pigeons work?

The principle of pigeon messaging, also known as “pigeon post,” relies on the strong homing instinct of pigeons, and the recipient of the message is the person who keeps the pigeons.

Pigeon messaging works by taking advantage of the pigeons’ natural instinct to return to their nests. It is not about training pigeons to deliver messages; instead, it involves taking the pigeons away from their nests and releasing them when a message needs to be sent. The pigeons then return to their nests, carrying the message along the way. The pigeons do not go back to their nests specifically to deliver messages; it is a byproduct of their homing behavior. There are various theories about how pigeons navigate, including magnetic field detection, visual cues, and even olfactory senses. However, the prevailing belief is that pigeons primarily rely on magnetic field navigation. Well-trained pigeons usually do not linger in unfamiliar locations for extended periods. Pigeon messaging is typically one-way communication, where the pigeon is taken out and returns home with the message. However, there are cases of two-way communication, where pigeons rest or build nests at point A and feed at point B. They have distinct directions when traveling to feed and returning home with a message. This kind of communication occurs over relatively short distances, and for long-distance communication, it becomes one-way, meaning the pigeons can only carry messages while returning home. It is not possible to instruct them to go to specific locations. To achieve multi-directional messaging, one needs to keep pigeons at multiple points, each with its own route, rather than having a single pigeon with multiple routes.

pigeon in Chinese history

China is also an ancient country with a long history of pigeon breeding. During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period in southern China, pigeons with different colors had already emerged. During the Qin and Han dynasties, both the imperial court and the common people were fascinated by the breeding and management of various pigeons.

During the Sui and Tang dynasties, pigeon messaging was already being practiced in southern China, particularly in Guangzhou. Chinese and foreign laborers at sea used pigeons to deliver messages and inform their families of their safety.

During the Tang and Song dynasties, pigeon breeding became extremely popular. In the Hangzhou area at that time, raising pigeons for leisure was common. Wind chimes were tied to the pigeons’ legs, and hundreds of them would fly together, creating a picturesque scene with the ringing sound of the chimes. This practice was not only prevalent among the common people but also among the imperial court. Zhang Jiuling, a prime minister of the Tang dynasty, raised a flock of pigeons in his hometown in southern China and used them to deliver letters to his family. In the Southern Song dynasty, Emperor Gaozong was so infatuated with pigeon breeding that he even neglected state affairs.

During the Ming dynasty, pigeon breeding in China reached a considerable level of expertise. The industry thrived during the Qing dynasty, with China importing a large number of excellent pigeon breeds from abroad. By the late Qing and early Republic of China era, pigeon breeding was popular among people of all backgrounds, including high-ranking officials, the children of the Eight Banners, commoners, and even the elderly. Some individuals raised only twenty to thirty pigeons, while others had hundreds of them. Pigeon owners during this period also enjoyed attaching whistles to their pigeons. People not only witnessed the pigeons flying in the blue sky but also enjoyed the wonderful melodies created by the whistles in the open space.

what does pigeon in ancient China used for?

Pigeon Food

As one of the ancient civilizations in the world, China has a history of pigeon breeding that spans thousands of years. As early as the Shang Dynasty, there were artistic representations of pigeons, such as a jade carving of a pigeon found in the Fu Hao tomb in Henan Province. This indicates that pigeons were already being raised by people thousands of years ago. The earliest written records about pigeons can be traced back to the “Book of Rites,” which mentions six types of domestic animals, six types of wild animals, and six types of birds. The six birds include geese, quails, orioles, pheasants, doves, and pigeons, suggesting that pigeons were considered a delicacy and enjoyed as food in the Shang Dynasty.

Pigeons as Good Luck Symbols

According to records in the “Jifutongzhi,” pigeons even saved the life of Emperor Gaozu of the Han Dynasty. When Xiang Yu, the Hegemon-King of Western Chu, was chasing Emperor Gaozu Liu Bang, Liu Bang hid in a dry well. The Chu army reached the well but saw two pigeons standing on top, assuming that there was no one inside the well and did not search further. As a result, Liu Bang escaped unharmed. This story is not found in historical records, so its authenticity cannot be confirmed. However, starting from the Han Dynasty, pigeons became a symbol of auspiciousness and were regarded as “auspicious birds.” For example, the “Book of Song” records that in the second year of the Taishi reign, in the month of June, white pigeons were seen in the Yanzhou Yanshou County, and Wang Yin presented them as an offering. Due to their white color and graceful appearance, pigeons became a symbol of the prosperity of dynasties and were considered auspicious by the ruling class.

In the book “Chuanshug e” written by the Japanese author Iwaya Sazanami, it is mentioned that “Emperor Gaozu of Han was once pursued by Xiang Yu and hid in a dry well. He was later rescued by sending a message through pigeons.” Taiwanese pigeon author Zhou Tingmo believes that these two pigeons were Chinese Tumbler pigeons. His reasoning is that Chinese Tumblers are small and lightweight, making them suitable for military communication.


Pigeon Fights

During the Han Dynasty, pigeons were not associated with messenger roles. People mainly used geese and swans to deliver messages (hence the phrase “geese delivering letters”). It was during the Tang Dynasty that pigeon breeding techniques became mature after years of domestication. In addition to raising pigeons for food, people trained pigeons for combat (similar to cockfighting) and engaged in activities like pigeon releases for prayers and longevity. For example, the poet Yuan Zhen wrote the verse, “In tranquility, pigeons are already tamed, while in harmony, hawks are equally admired,” indicating that pigeon breeding had become an important pastime for leisure and entertainment.

Even Emperor Tang Ming Huang had a fondness for raising and fighting pigeons. The “Shaanxi Tongzhi” records that “Tang Ming Huang referred to pigeons as ‘flying slaves’ and in the imperial palace, they raised pigeons, which were called ‘half-day beauties.'” Emperor Xuanzong even gave the pigeons elegant names like “flying slave” and “half-day beauty.” When the emperor himself took a liking to pigeons, it naturally became a popular trend among the common people. It is possible that people discovered certain pigeon breeds with navigation and homing abilities by chance, which led to their selection, improvement, and cultivation. As a result, there are historical records in the Tang Dynasty of using pigeons to transmit information.

carrier pigeon

During the Han Dynasty, there are speculations that Zhang Qian, who traveled to the Western Regions, and Ban Chao, who led expeditions to the Western Regions, used pigeons to deliver letters. However, there is no historical evidence to support these claims, and they have been passed down as speculations.

The earliest recorded centralized use of carrier pigeons in China was during the Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 425). The Tiefu tribe of the Xiongnu ethnic group, during the period of the Sixteen Kingdoms, particularly the Xia state founded by Emperor Chen De in AD 407, engaged in large-scale pigeon breeding and utilized carrier pigeons for communication. The people of Xia used carrier pigeons because pigeons have a natural instinct to return to their nests.

Initially, carrier pigeons in Xia were used to transmit military information. While the wealthy in the Song Dynasty were busy constructing gardens, the prosperous citizens of Xia became enthusiastic about horsemanship and pigeon racing. At first, carrier pigeons were often hunted and killed by humans, but later, Xia established laws that regarded the consumption of carrier pigeons for military purposes as a serious offense, punishable by being sent to labor camps. Subsequently, merchants also began using carrier pigeons for communication, leading to the establishment of carrier pigeon relay stations throughout Xia and the development of a nationwide communication network.

Wang Renyu, a writer from the Five Dynasties period, recorded in his work “Kaoyuan Tianbao Yishi” that Zhang Jiuling, a prominent statesman of the Tang Dynasty, raised a flock of pigeons in his home. Whenever he exchanged letters with acquaintances, he would attach the letters to the pigeons’ legs and release them to fly to the intended recipients. Zhang Jiuling affectionately called the carrier pigeons “Fei Nu” (literally meaning “flying slaves”).

During the same period, Persians were also utilizing carrier pigeons for message delivery. According to the “Youyang Zazu,” a Chinese book of miscellaneous knowledge, it states: “Zheng Fuli, the Commissioner of Dali, said that many pigeons were raised on Persian ships. These pigeons could fly thousands of miles and would be released to fly back home, serving as messages of safety.” This indicates that Persians also understood the characteristics of pigeons and utilized them to deliver messages of safety. Unlike the land, where communication was relatively easier, the vast sea presented a challenge, but carrier pigeons could overcome thousands of miles, making them the perfect messengers. An earlier record in the “Tang Guoshi,” an official history book of the Tang Dynasty, also mentioned carrier pigeons: “The Nanhai Bo (South Sea Vessels) refers to foreign ships that arrive in Annam and Guangzhou. The largest ships belong to the Shizi nation. They are equipped with ladders several Zhang (a traditional Chinese unit of length) high, piled with precious goods. When goods arrive, they are loaded and unloaded, causing the city to be noisy. The chiefs are regarded as the masters, and the merchants’ goods are recorded, taxed, and the goods brought onto the ship are inspected. If a merchant is found to be cheating, they are thrown into prison. Before the ship departs, white pigeons are raised for communication. If the ship sinks, the pigeons return.” In this context, carrier pigeons played an unfavorable role. Due to the inconvenience of communication, every sea vessel carried a pigeon to deliver messages. However, the messages conveyed by the pigeons were unique: if a pigeon returned, it meant the ship had sunk, and the sailors on board were in grave danger.

By the time of the Song Dynasty, carrier pigeon communication gained more recognition and gradually occupied an important position among various means of information transmission. The “Song Dynasty Facts Garden” recorded: “The domestication of carrier pigeons for communication by people nowadays is not a falsehood. When carried thousands of miles away and released, they can always return home. People from Sichuan use carrier pigeons to send letters to the capital. Within ten days, the letters always arrive. Merchants traveling on ships across the sea also use pigeons for communication.” So, it can be seen that carrier pigeons were capable of flying from Sichuan to Kaifeng during the Song Dynasty.


Pigeons used in war

The mode of using carrier pigeons for message delivery was not only popular among the common people but also highly praised by the military. In a famous incident during the Southern Song Dynasty, General Zhang Jun went to inspect his subordinate Qu Duan’s camp. To his surprise, there was no one present except Qu Duan. Zhang Jun questioned whether Qu Duan was the only commander in the camp. Calmly, Qu Duan presented the roster of his five armies and asked Zhang Jun which unit he would like to review. Zhang Jun randomly selected one unit, and Qu Duan released a pigeon from its cage. Shortly after the pigeon flew away, the soldiers of the selected unit arrived fully armed at great speed, leaving Zhang Jun astonished. He then requested to see all the military units, and Qu Duan released the remaining four pigeons. In no time, all five units assembled, with soldiers in perfect formation, arms aligned, and high morale. Zhang Jun was greatly pleased and praised Qu Duan extensively.

From Qu Duan’s behavior, it can be seen that the pigeons he released were well-trained carrier pigeons, each carrying orders to gather the respective units. Upon receiving the message brought by the pigeons, the units swiftly rushed to the camp.

In Chinese history, there was a famous battle that utilized carrier pigeons for messaging and set up an ambush. This battle is known as the “Battle of Haoshui River.”

The battle took place in 1041 AD between the Northern Song Dynasty and the Western Xia Dynasty. The main commanders of the opposing forces were prominent figures in Chinese history. The Western Xia side was led by Li Yuanhao, the founding monarch known for his ambitious nature and aspirations for dominance over the Central Plains. The main commander of the Northern Song forces was Han Qi, a renowned politician and strategist who served as a prime minister during three reigns. As the military influence and political ambitions of Li Yuanhao expanded, he no longer satisfied with being a vassal to the Song Dynasty and openly provoked the Song court. The border tensions escalated, and the situation reached the brink of war. During this critical period, Han Qi was appointed as the deputy of Shanxi pacification and was tasked with assisting Xia Song, the pacification commissioner. The three of them had differing opinions on the military strategy against Western Xia, with Han Qi advocating for a decisive battle while the other two leaned towards peaceful negotiations. After reporting to the imperial court, Emperor Renzong decided to adopt Han Qi’s suggestion and sent troops to attack Western Xia.

In the first year of Qingli, 1041 AD, before launching an attack on the Song Dynasty, Li Yuanhao used a deceitful peace proposal to deceive the Song army. However, his trick was exposed by Han Qi, who told his subordinates, “To propose peace without prior agreement is treacherous.” In February, Li Yuanhao led a 100,000-strong army to attack Weizhou, advancing directly to Huaiyuan City. Upon hearing the news, Han Qi urgently dispatched General Ren Fu with 18,000 troops, with Sang Yi serving as the vanguard, to resist and counterattack. Prior to their departure, the renowned Han Qi personally briefed Ren Fu on the strategic situation, ordering him to flank the Xia army and engage in battle if possible, or set up ambushes in advantageous positions to intercept the enemy’s retreat. He emphasized, “If you violate discipline, even if you achieve merits, you will be executed.” Li Yuanhao, aware of Ren Fu’s eagerness for victory, deliberately sent a small detachment to engage Ren Fu’s forces and then pretended to be in a disadvantaged position and hastily retreated, leaving behind numerous cattle, sheep, and camels along the way. Unaware of the trap, Ren Fu abandoned his supplies and pursued with light cavalry.

Li Yuanhao, known for his cunning and ability to use strategies, differed from typical founding monarchs in history. Disregarding the biased accounts in official historical records, his actions were worthy of the title of an outstanding political and military strategist. He had thoroughly investigated the geographical terrain where the Song army would be lured, known as “Haoshui River.” This location featured a valley-like terrain that was easy to defend and difficult to attack. To conceal their escape and avoid arousing suspicion from the Song army, Li Yuanhao had placed numerous sealed mud boxes in advance. When the Song army encountered these boxes, they were perplexed. Upon tapping them with their hands, they heard what seemed like movement inside. Ren Fu ordered the Song soldiers to open the mud boxes, and as the pigeons inside flew up in a frenzy, it served as the signal for Li Yuanhao’s ambush. This was similar to the role of signal flares in modern warfare. Ren Fu, unaware of the situation, unwittingly opened Pandora’s box, and disaster struck as 100,000 hidden troops under Li Yuanhao’s command launched a coordinated attack from the mountaintops, trapping the Song army in the valley. In this battle, the Song army suffered the loss of more than ten officers and 6,000 soldiers killed, and Ren Fu himself was mortally wounded. Li Yuanhao achieved a resounding victory.

This battle, which utilized carrier pigeons to lure and ambush the Song army, established a tripartite power dynamic among the Liao, Song, and Xia Dynasties, deteriorating the living conditions and forcing the Northern Song Dynasty to face military pressure on two fronts. This set the stage for the eventual downfall of the Northern Song Dynasty. The pro-war faction led by Han Qi, who used unconventional methods, was forced to order a retreat. On their way back, thousands of relatives of fallen soldiers knelt and wept, holding their deceased loved ones’ clothing and paper money, pleading for their spirits to return alongside Han Qi’s army. The mournful cries resounded, and Han Qi, with tears streaming down his face, halted his horse, unable to proceed. Li Yuanhao, after his victory, became excessively arrogant, composing poems and throwing them into the Song territory, taunting, “Xia Song is not worthy of attention, but Han Qi is nothing special. The dragon and tiger of the entire region are still discussing their military strategies.” Li Yuanhao, despite being an outstanding figure, knowledgeable in warfare and skilled in battle, went too far and humiliated the Song Dynasty excessively. This act backfired, igniting the spirit of the Song army.

western xia dynasty warriors


Carrier Pigeons as Pets

Due to the agile and alert nature of pigeons in China and their exceptional memory, they became popular as ornamental birds. During the Song Dynasty, pigeon-keeping thrived not only among the common people and the military but even Emperor Zhao Gou, the Song Gaozong, had a large flock of pigeons in the imperial palace. There was a famous admonishing poem during that time that said, “Countless pigeons circle around the imperial capital, flying home in the evening and released in the morning, it takes a lot of effort. Why not keep migrating geese from the south that can deliver two sacred books across the desert?” This poem was written by a group of college students who were concerned that the emperor was indulging in trivial matters. Emperor Gaozong was delighted when he read it and rewarded them with official positions. During the Song Dynasty, the quality of carrier pigeons improved, from being used by the common people to the military and even entering the imperial palace. It is recorded that the “Chinese Ash-colored Pigeon,” a famous breed in our country, has a history of seven hundred years, and it was during this period that it originated. It was only natural that during the flourishing of pigeon-keeping in the Tang and Song Dynasties, some famous breeds of carrier pigeons were cultivated.

Pigeon Racing

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, carrier pigeons gradually transformed into racing pigeons. As the number of carrier pigeons increased during the Song Dynasty, only a small number of them were used for delivering messages, while the majority were kept for ornamental purposes. When pigeon owners used carrier pigeons to deliver messages, it was common for some pigeons to become lost and unable to return home during their journey. Therefore, pigeon owners would release three to five pigeons, or even a dozen at a time. Some pigeons would return to the loft quickly, while others would return late, and some might not return at all. This sparked the idea of comparing the speed of message delivery among carrier pigeons, leading to the development of pigeon racing.

During the reign of the Zhengtong Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1436-1449 AD), in the area around Huaiyin in northern Jiangsu, there was a day of heavy rain and wind when a tired pigeon landed on a roof. When the homeowner caught it and was about to kill it, they noticed a message wrapped in oil-paper attached to its foot. The homeowner read the words on the envelope and realized that the pigeon had flown from Beijing, taking only three days to cover a distance of over 700 kilometers. This record shows that carrier pigeons had a high level of homing ability over 500 years ago. For pigeon owners, the pigeon was considered lost, but if they released multiple pigeons simultaneously, some pigeons might have already returned home. If only one pigeon was released and it failed to return, the owner would learn a lesson and release several pigeons in the future when sending messages.

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, pigeon racing emerged as carrier pigeons transitioned into racing pigeons. The earliest developed region for pigeon racing was the Guangdong area. There were pigeon clubs such as the “Feige Club” and “Bai Ge Club” in Foshan, Guangdong, which were either purely racing pigeon organizations or associations for organizing pigeon races. From historical records, it seems more likely to be the latter, but it is also possible that there were loosely organized pigeon clubs. During the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty, there were pigeon races in Suzhou as well. It was said, “Red-legged birds fly with humans, and azure clouds shine as phoenixes soar.” This vividly described the scene of pigeon fanciers and pigeon races blending together. Pigeon owners in Suzhou mixed carrier pigeons and ornamental pigeons. Common ornamental breeds included “Silver-white Bottom,” “Purple Ball,” “White Silky,” and “White Sand.” Some rare flying breeds such as “Iron Sand,” “Zhejiang Grey,” and “Dianzi” were regarded as precious breeds. Pigeon races were held in May or June when pigeon owners gathered to release their pigeons from cages. In the blue sky, pigeons with white heads and purple feathers, displaying a variety of colors, would fly. Pigeon owners would stand on high ground, enjoying the spectacular sight. Some pigeon owners had unique ways of appreciation. After releasing their pigeons, they would sit around a basin of clear water or a large mirror. Instead of looking up, they would bow their heads and observe the reflection of the pigeons, which added a touch of elegance. Pigeon racing activities took place in various ancient capitals such as Beijing, Nanjing, Xi’an, Kaifeng, Luoyang, and Hangzhou. In Beijing, pigeon owners would tie a whistle to the tail of the pigeons, and as the pigeons flew in the blue sky, the sound of the whistle spread throughout the land, sometimes loud and sometimes soft, sometimes distant and sometimes near, creating a feeling of celestial music.

Pigeon racing emerged during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties, initially flourishing in the south. However, the “Pigeon Classic” was produced in Shandong, at the Yellow River estuary. This indicates that pigeon keeping and pigeon racing were not limited to Guangdong but likely spread throughout the entire country.

Tang Ge/Temple pigeon

“Tang Ge” (堂鸽) is a term used to describe pigeons that were kept in palaces and temples during ancient times in China. According to the historical records in the “Book of Song” and “Book of Southern Qi,” there were references to the importance and presence of pigeons in royal and sacred places.

In the “Book of Song,” it is mentioned that during the second year of the Tai Shi era (266 AD) in the reign of Emperor Wu of the Jin Dynasty, white pigeons were presented as tribute to the emperor from Jiuquan Yanshou. This indicates that white pigeons were considered rare and valuable during that time.

In the “Book of Southern Qi,” there is a mention of the siege of Jianye by Hou Jing. The city was cut off from reinforcements, and the people inside the city faced a prolonged period of hunger. The soldiers resorted to desperate measures, such as boiling strings, smoking rats, and catching sparrows to alleviate their hunger. It is also mentioned that in the past, there were many pigeon flocks in the palace, but during the siege, they were eliminated. This refers to the practice of raising pigeons in palaces, which is now commonly referred to as “Tang Ge.” Examples of places where pigeons were kept include the City God Temple in Shanghai, the Xuanmiao Temple in Suzhou, and some Catholic churches, where pigeons were either considered sacred birds or released as an act of compassion.

pigeon in feng shui

Pigeons, also known as “sun birds,” can be kept on rooftops to ward off evil spirits, particularly in houses with heavy yin energy. Keeping pigeons can help neutralize and resolve the yin energy, promoting harmony between yin and yang and achieving a balance of tranquility and vitality.

Feng Shui Taboos for Keeping Pigeons:

Keeping both male and female pigeons together: When keeping pigeons, it is important to consider the gender balance. It is advisable to keep a balanced number of male and female pigeons. Having an imbalance of either gender can disrupt the harmony of yin and yang, which is unfavorable for the feng shui energy. Imbalances in yin and yang can lead to various conflicts and disputes with neighbors.

Proper ventilation for pigeon cages: Pigeon cages should have good ventilation and should not be substituted with regular pet nests, such as dog houses or cat beds. Blocking the ventilation of the pigeon cage can hinder the growth and reproduction of pigeons and prevent positive energy from entering the house. This can negatively impact overall luck, including wealth, career, and romantic relationships, and make it easier for negative energy to enter the house.

Maintaining clean and tidy cages: Regular cleaning and maintenance of pigeon cages are important. Promptly remove any leftover food or dirty items from the cage to prevent excessive odor. Excessive foul odors can decrease luck. It is also important to clean the surrounding area while feeding the pigeons. Avoid placing the pigeon cage in direct sunlight or in dark areas.

What does it mean when a pigeon lands on the window ledge?

Pigeons are creatures with deep emotions. If a pigeon lands on your window ledge, it signifies that your balcony or courtyard is peaceful, which attracts the pigeons. This is considered a good omen, indicating a harmonious and loving family environment and suggesting favorable financial luck.

pigeon in Chinese medicine

pigeon is the Chinese name for a medicinal ingredient. It refers to the meat of pigeons, which include the original species Columba livia Gmelin, domestic pigeons (Columba livia domestica Linnaeus), and rock pigeons (Columba rupestris Pallas). It is distributed in northern and northwestern regions of China, as well as in most parts of the country. Pigeon meat is believed to nourish the kidneys, tonify Qi (vital energy), dispel wind, detoxify, regulate menstruation, and alleviate pain. It is commonly used for conditions such as deficiency syndrome, blood deficiency and stagnation in women causing amenorrhea, excessive thirst, chronic malaria, measles, intestinal bleeding due to intestinal wind, ulcers, and scabies.

pigeon in Chinese food

“Crispy Roasted Squab” is a traditional famous dish in Guangdong cuisine, belonging to the Cantonese culinary tradition. It is known for its crispy skin, tender meat, vibrant red color, and delicious aroma. Regular consumption of this dish is believed to promote overall health, strengthen the body, and benefit the respiratory system. Over time, three main cooking methods have developed: deep-frying, shallow-frying, and roasting. Regardless of the cooking method used, the dish involves a series of processing steps, including marinating the squab and applying a special coating to achieve a crispy skin. The final product features a crispy exterior, tender meat, rich red color, and a delightful fragrance.

pigeons in Taoism culture

In Taoism, pigeons are regarded as birds of longevity, believed to possess extraordinary powers that can grant immortality to humans.

The guardian deity of pigeons is located in Beijing’s Dongyue Temple. In front of the main hall, to the west of the divine pathway, the sixth chamber on the northern side is called the “Avian Department.” It is responsible for the breeding and protection of all flying creatures, including pigeons.

In fact, there are other relevant departments within the “departments” surrounding the main gate and main hall. For instance, in the southeastern corner, there is the “Oviparous Department,” which encompasses all creatures that lay eggs, including snake eggs and turtle eggs. It is also mentioned that any sins committed in the mortal realm will result in being reincarnated as an oviparous creature.

Within the “Release Department,” there are two clay sculptures. The second one on the southern side portrays a young boy releasing a pigeon. This department embodies the philosophy of compassion, admonishing people against wanton killing of living beings.

Dongyue Temple occupies an area of approximately 60,000 square meters and comprises over 600 halls and buildings. Outside the mountain gate, there are three archways and seven colorful pavilions. The temple also features the “Zhang Gong Stele,” a masterpiece by the renowned calligrapher Zhao Meng during the Yuan Dynasty, which is a noteworthy sight.

In Taoism, it is believed that the differentiation of yin and yang marks the beginning of judgment, establishing the realms of heaven, earth, and water, from which the three elements emerge. The officials who govern both the mortal realm and the underworld are known as “officials.” They bestow blessings, pardon sins, alleviate difficulties, and oversee merits and demerits. They govern the world impartially.

pigeons in Buddhist culture

In Buddhist concepts, pigeons hold significant symbolism and represent peace, compassion, wisdom, and purification.

Symbolic Meaning: Pigeons are seen as carriers of “innocent wisdom” and are associated with bringing peace, kindness, friendship, courage, and spiritual growth.

Broad Influence: Pigeons are not only symbolic in Buddhism but also hold important positions in other religious beliefs such as Taoism, Islam, and Christianity.

In Buddhism, the symbolism of pigeons can be interpreted as follows:

Compassion: Pigeons are considered symbols of compassion because they possess a special emotion of “loving-kindness,” which allows them to bring about peace, kindness, friendship, courage, and spiritual growth.

Loving-kindness: Pigeons are regarded as symbols of “loving-kindness” due to their special emotional quality, enabling them to bring about peace, kindness, friendship, courage, and spiritual growth.

Honesty: Pigeons are seen as symbols of honesty because they possess a special emotional quality of “sincerity,” enabling them to bring about peace, kindness, friendship, courage, and spiritual growth.

Wisdom: Pigeons are considered symbols of wisdom because they possess a special emotional quality of “discernment,” enabling them to bring about peace, kindness, friendship, courage, and spiritual growth.

Purification: Pigeons are seen as symbols of purification because they possess a special emotional quality of “purity,” enabling them to bring about peace, kindness, friendship, courage, and spiritual growth.

Cultural Symbolism

Pigeons have found their way into various forms of Chinese art, literature, and symbolism. They are often depicted in traditional paintings, poetry, and ceramics, symbolizing love, loyalty, and fidelity. Pigeons are also associated with marital bliss and are a common motif in wedding decorations and gifts.

Pigeon-Racing Sport

Pigeon racing is a popular sport in China with a long history. It involves training and racing pigeons over long distances, with participants competing to see whose bird returns home in the shortest time. Pigeon racing has evolved into a cherished tradition and a competitive sport that showcases the skill and dedication of breeders and trainers.

pigeons vs Hawks in Chinese Culture

In Chinese culture, pigeons and hawks hold contrasting symbolism and represent different concepts. Here’s a comparison of the two:


Peace and Harmony: Pigeons are often associated with peace, harmony, and tranquility. They are considered gentle creatures and symbolize a peaceful coexistence among beings.

Innocence and Gentleness: Pigeons are seen as innocent and gentle animals, representing purity and kindness. They are associated with positive qualities such as compassion and empathy.

Love and Fidelity: Pigeons are known for their strong homing instincts and their loyalty to their mates. They symbolize love, devotion, and faithfulness in relationships.


Power and Strength: Hawks are seen as powerful birds of prey and symbolize strength, courage, and authority. They are associated with dominance and the ability to overcome challenges.

Vision and Focus: Hawks have sharp eyesight and keen focus, representing clarity of vision and the ability to see beyond the surface. They symbolize insight, perception, and attentiveness.

Freedom and Independence: Hawks are known for their ability to soar high in the sky and navigate vast territories. They symbolize freedom, independence, and the pursuit of one’s goals without limitations.

In traditional Chinese culture, the contrast between pigeons and hawks reflects the balance between peace and power, gentleness and strength, harmony and assertiveness. Both birds have their unique symbolism and are valued in different contexts based on their respective qualities.

pigeons vs Fenghuang in Chinese culture

In Chinese culture, pigeons and Fenghuang (also known as the Chinese Phoenix) hold distinct symbolism and represent different concepts. Here’s a comparison of the two:


Peace and Harmony: Pigeons are often associated with peace, harmony, and tranquility. They are gentle birds that symbolize a peaceful coexistence among beings.

Innocence and Gentleness: Pigeons are seen as innocent and gentle creatures, representing purity and kindness. They are associated with positive qualities such as compassion and empathy.

Love and Fidelity: Pigeons are known for their strong homing instincts and loyalty to their mates. They symbolize love, devotion, and faithfulness in relationships.

Fenghuang (Chinese Phoenix):

Divine and Auspicious: Fenghuang is a mythical bird in Chinese culture and is considered a divine creature. It symbolizes auspiciousness, prosperity, and good fortune. It is associated with the arrival of peace and harmony.

Rebirth and Renewal: Fenghuang is believed to have the ability to be reborn from its own ashes. It represents transformation, renewal, and the cycle of life.

Royal and Noble: Fenghuang is often depicted as a majestic and regal bird. It symbolizes nobility, power, and the presence of a virtuous ruler. It is associated with high status and dignity.

While pigeons represent more everyday concepts such as peace and love, Fenghuang holds a more mythical and elevated position in Chinese culture. Fenghuang embodies the ideals of divinity, auspiciousness, and nobility, often associated with royalty and high virtues. Both pigeons and Fenghuang contribute to the rich symbolism and cultural significance of birds in Chinese traditions.

pigeons vs Swallow in Chinese Culture

In Chinese culture, pigeons and swallows have different symbolic meanings and cultural significance. Here’s a comparison of the two:


Peace and Harmony: Pigeons are often associated with peace, tranquility, and harmony. They are seen as gentle birds that represent a peaceful coexistence among beings.

Innocence and Gentleness: Pigeons are regarded as innocent and gentle creatures, symbolizing purity and kindness. They are associated with positive qualities such as compassion and empathy.

Love and Fidelity: Pigeons are known for their strong homing instincts and loyalty to their mates. They symbolize love, devotion, and faithfulness in relationships.


Good Luck and Prosperity: Swallows are considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity in Chinese culture. Their arrival is believed to bring blessings and abundance.

Family and Home: Swallows are known for building intricate nests, and they are associated with the concept of home and family. They symbolize loyalty, care, and the importance of building a secure and nurturing environment.

Resilience and Perseverance: Swallows migrate long distances each year, displaying resilience and perseverance. They are seen as symbols of endurance and the ability to overcome challenges.

In Chinese culture, both pigeons and swallows hold positive symbolism and are regarded favorably. Pigeons represent peace, love, and gentleness, while swallows symbolize good fortune, family, and resilience. Their presence in cultural symbolism reflects the values and aspirations of harmony, prosperity, and strong familial bonds.

what does a pigeon symbolize in dreams?

  • In dreams, pigeons symbolize peace, harmony, and love.
  • Dreaming of wild pigeons indicates that you will have good financial luck.
  • Dreaming of raising pigeons suggests that you will have a prosperous income and an increase in family members.
  • Dreaming of seeing many pigeons signifies that you will have true friends who will be there for you in life and death.
  • For men, dreaming of pigeons represents a comfortable and affluent life.
  • For married women, dreaming of pigeons suggests pregnancy and the birth of a handsome and healthy boy.
  • Dreaming of pigeons locked in a cage indicates that you will gain hidden wealth from others.
  • Giving pigeons to someone in a dream suggests that you will gain fame and recognition.
  • Dreaming of dead pigeons indicates financial losses.
  • If a cat bites a pigeon in a dream, it is an ominous sign suggesting that you may encounter disasters.
  • Dreaming of shooting a pigeon indicates that your worries will become a thing of the past.
  • Dreaming of a flying pigeon suggests that you will face difficulties or obstacles.
  • Dreaming of a dead pigeon implies marital separation, possibly due to the death of one partner or betrayal.
  • Dreaming of a pigeon flying away from your hands suggests that your wife will leave you.
  • For those who have a gambling habit, dreaming of pigeons suggests good luck and the possibility of winning a large sum of money.
  • Dreaming of pigeons mating and building nests symbolizes world peace, and the loving and compassionate nature of children will be conveyed to everyone, bringing happiness to family life.
  • Hearing the lonely and sorrowful cries of pigeons in a dream indicates that you will seek help to save someone but will be unsuccessful. You will feel deeply saddened and disappointed by their death. This dream can also foretell the passing of a respected elder.
  • Dreaming of white pigeons suggests a bountiful harvest and great trust and loyalty among friends.
  • Dreaming of a flock of white pigeons signifies peaceful and pure happiness, as well as smooth future development.
  • If a dream involves carrier pigeons delivering messages, it implies that good news will come from distant friends and suggests sweet and harmonious relationships.
  • If the pigeons in the dream appear exhausted, it signifies receiving sad news that disrupts harmony and tranquility. It may also indicate feeling melancholic due to mentioning an ill friend, which affects the originally joyful mood. In terms of career, it suggests a decline in progress.
  • If a dream involves carrier pigeons foretelling your impending doom, it suggests that you or your loved one may suffer from a terminal illness, leading to financial difficulties.


Pigeons occupy a special place in Chinese culture, representing peace, communication, and auspiciousness. Their symbolism extends beyond mere birds and is deeply ingrained in Chinese traditions, art, and spiritual practices. Whether as messengers, symbols of love, or participants in competitive sports, pigeons continue to play a meaningful role in Chinese society, connecting the past with the present and embodying the values cherished by the Chinese people.

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