Cranes have long been a symbol of longevity, wisdom, and good fortune in Chinese culture. These majestic birds are deeply rooted in Chinese mythology and have been revered for centuries. In this article, we will explore the significance of cranes in Chinese culture and how you can incorporate them into your home decor using the principles of Feng Shui.
Birds are seen as symbols of good luck and prosperity in Chinese culture and Feng Shui. The Chinese crane, known as hè (鹤), is revered as the most noble of birds. In Chinese culture, the crane is second only to the phoenix (Fenghuang) as the most widely recognized bird icon.
Cranes have long been associated in Chinese culture with the concept of eternal life. Daoism, which emerged during the Han era, attributed special significance to these ancient birds.
The Symbolism of Cranes in Chinese Culture
In Chinese mythology, cranes are believed to be messengers of the gods and are often associated with immortality and the afterlife. They are also seen as symbols of wisdom, grace, and longevity. In fact, in Chinese art, cranes are often depicted alongside pine trees and tortoises, which are also symbols of longevity.
In addition to their symbolic meanings, cranes are also highly regarded for their physical characteristics. They are known for their graceful movements, strong wings, and long lifespan, making them a symbol of strength and resilience.
The crane is also a synonym for the word “harmony” (合) in Chinese; therefore, two cranes symbolize the best wishes for a long and happy marriage. The crane represents considerable respect due to its status as “a bird of the first rank” in the imperial hierarchy. Furthermore, the traditional form of the flight character is (飛), which may represent a crane in flight with two ‘wings’ and a long neck. The current flight character (飞) only has one wing.
A painting of a Chinese crane should ideally have the two-winged traditional Chinese character (飛), rather than the more common one-winged version (飞).
Because of its big beak, long legs, and long neck, the crane is also known as the “three-long” bird. It is one meter tall while standing upright. Because people admired the crane’s unwavering strength in flight, its wings were used as an amulet against exhaustion and depletion.
Cranes have intrigued mankind for hundreds of years because of their beauty and peaceful demeanor. However, the metaphorical value of cranes extends much beyond their external look.
Symbol of social ranking in the Imperial Court
Cranes were included in the mandarin square on the Ming and Qing dynasties’ court robes. In the Ming dynasty, a first-class civil official would wear a buzi with a fairy crane (仙鹤– xinhè). When the crane mandarin square is combined with water, clouds, and blue sky design, it emphasizes the wisdom and expertise of the Chinese Imperial Court’s civil officials.
Longevity and Immortality Symbol
Cranes (鹤-hè) are known as “immortal cranes” (仙鹤) and are supposed to promote longevity due to the bird’s recurrent link in mythology with immortal gods. Many mythologies and folktales depict gods from heaven descending down to earth on a crane. In Daoist tradition, the crane is considered a messenger from heaven. When a Daoist priest dies, an immortal crane is claimed to carry him to heaven.
Crane and pine trees
Pine trees and cranes are both symbols of longevity, as well as the final years of a long life. The symbol of longevity is enhanced when soaring cranes are mixed with growing pines.
Crane and herb of immortality
A crane is commonly shown in popular prints with the herb of immortality in its beak; this is a twofold emblem of longevity.
Crane and tortoise
The combination of a tortoise and a crane is associated with longevity in Chinese traditions. The tortoise, like the crane, is a symbol of longevity in Chinese culture.
Cranes and peaches
Because of their links with immortals (i.e. they were employed as conveyance for immortals), the combination of a crane and peaches is one of the Chinese symbols of longevity. In Chinese mythology, both are symbols of longevity. Immortals are frequently shown on the backs of cranes, and fabled peaches are said to bloom in Xiwangmu’s orchard; so, the combination of peaches and immortals evokes penglai, which is an island for immortals.
Symbol of Nobility and Integrity
The crane shown among the clouds is thought to symbolize dignity and integrity, in addition to longevity. individuals used to equate virtuous and gifted individuals to cranes.
Confucian relationship symbol
The five birds represent the five Confucian relationships (五伦); the crane represents the utmost level of reverence a son should show his father.
A Taoist priest is said to be “turning into a feathered crane” as he dies. Occasionally, a statue of a crane with spread wings would accompany a funeral procession to represent the soul’s journey to Western Heaven (paradise).
In mythology, the “boy of the white crane” is a divine messenger who supports heroes, while cranes are depicted standing next to Nüwa, the mother goddess of Chinese mythology, in a painting from the Western Han dynasty.
Wealth and good fortune
Cranes are also seen as good luck and fortune symbols. The sight of two cranes flying together represents ambition and is supposed to bring prosperity and wealth, while the sound of a crane’s call is thought to bring success and wealth. The pictures of two cranes flying up towards the sun are used to convey the recipient’s desire to rise high.
Long-Lasting Love Symbol
A pair of cranes is a common emblem of a husband and wife’s relationship. As a result, it is also a romantic bird, representing enduring love and devotion in marriage. Cranes, unlike other birds, are monogamous and stick to a single mate until death.
Harmony and Peace Symbol
Cranes are often seen as symbols of peace and harmony due to their delicate and beautiful demeanor. Cranes frequently appear in Chinese art standing in a mountain stream or surrounded by cherry blossoms to represent a peaceful existence. Because it was supposed to impart serenity and tranquillity to those who witnessed it, the presence of a crane was commonly invoked to stop disagreements and bring the world back into balance.
Wisdom and Intelligence Symbol
Cranes are also connected to knowledge and intelligence. Cranes are famed for their ability to navigate difficult migration routes, which has earned them a great deal of respect and adoration among the Chinese people. The presence of a crane was regarded to inspire and guide those in need, while the sight of one was thought to give wisdom and clarity on those who saw it.
Symbol of cleanliness and purity
Cranes have come to signify purity and cleanliness because they soar high above the dust of the ground.
In addition, thinking of a crane in any context is a good omen, indicating that you will survive to an old age, and dreaming of a flying crane is an even better omen, indicating that you will advance to positions of leadership.
Cranes are also widely featured in Chinese celebrations and customs, particularly during the Lunar New Year. Crane cutouts made of red paper, for example, are widely placed in homes and businesses as a symbol of good fortune and prosperity, and crane images can be found on greeting cards and other gifts intended for friends and family members to wish them well.
In China, it is also customary to commemorate an elderly person’s birthday with an image of a crane, which denotes health and longevity.
What Do Chinese Legends About Cranes Reveal?
According to some Chinese legends, there are four sorts of cranes, each with a distinct color: white, yellow, blue, and black. The black crane has been known to survive for hundreds of years. According to Chinese legend, a crane turns gray at the age of 1000 and then black after another 1000 years, earning the title “the mysterious crane.” When a black crane reaches the age of 600, it is reported to stop feeding and just sip water.
The Dancing Cranes’ Legend
One of the most well-known crane stories in Chinese mythology is The Legend of the Dancing Cranes. According to the story, a group of cranes resided in a beautiful mountain valley and spent their days dancing and singing in the sun. A young prince was traveling through the valley one day when he became fascinated by the beauty of the cranes and lingered to watch them dance.
The prince learned to care about the cranes over time, and he promised to keep them safe. But then a horrible evil emerged in the valley, threatening the cranes and everything they treasured. As a result, the prince joined the cranes in their fight against evil, and together they defeated their foe and saved their home.
Tseng Sang’s Legend
According to legend, Tseng Sang, a Confucius devotee, rescued the life of an injured crane. The crane took off, but later returned to Tseng Sang with its companion. Both birds were holding a pearl, which they offered to Tseng Sang.
The Chang’e legend
Another crane-related story is The Love Story of Chang’e. The beauty goddess Chang’e and her spouse Houyi the Archer dwelt on the moon, according to this mythology.
While Houyi was away fighting in a crucial battle, a malevolent demon who wished to claim Chang’e contacted her.
Chang’e was afraid when the monster approached her, so she fled away from the moon to avoid him. However, as she flew through the air, she transformed into a white crane and ascended higher and higher until she finally landed on a distant mountainside. She spent the rest of her days as a bird, free of the demon’s grasp but separated from her devoted husband.
Lü Dongbin’s Legend
According to legend, Lü Dongbin (one of the Eight Immortals) drank in a wine shop and instead of paying, sketched two dancing cranes on the inn’s wall. The wall painting became well-known, enticing more clients; however, once the loan was paid, the cranes disengaged from the wall and flew away.
Popular Crane Quotes
Here are the top 10 crane sayings, along with explanations. In case you were wondering, the Chinese characters for these idioms can be found in the brackets.
- “Floating clouds, wild cranes” (xián yún yě hè – 闲云野鹤): The expression refers to those who live an independent life free of everyday concerns.
- “Like a white crane in the clouds” (yn zhng zhōng xiān hè – 云中仙鹤): This describes a noble and virtuous individual.
- “Like a crane standing in a flock of chickens” (hè lì jī qún – 鹤立鸡群 ): An idiom used to describe someone who stands out from the crowd owing to their physical appearance or a specific talent.
- “Longevity like the turtle and crane” (guī nián hè shòu – 龟年鹤寿): This proverb speaks to a long life.
- (fén qín zhǔ hè – 焚琴煮鹤): This phrase refers to burning or spoiling beautiful things.
- “The fleeing people heard the sound of the wind and cranes and thought there were chasers” (fēng shēng hè lì – 风声鹤唳): This phrase is used to describe people who are extremely anxious and paranoid.
- “Ride a crane to the west” (jiàhè xīqù – 驾鹤西去 ): It is a euphemism for death, which means riding a crane and flying to heaven. Extended meaning: a taboo term for death. It means respect and blessings for the deceased.
- “The frame of a crane and the posture of a pine” (hè gǔ sōng zī – 鹤骨松姿): This proverb describes a person’s sophisticated and noteworthy behavior.
- “Have gray hair like a crane and a child’s face” (hè fà tóng yán – 鹤发童颜 ): A Chinese proverb describing an attractive elderly person.
- “The immortal flew away on his yellow crane and never returned” (yǎo rú huáng hè – 杳如黄鹤): This expression refers to someone who cannot be found or whose whereabouts are unknown.
Cranes in Chinese Art
When it comes to portraying abstract thoughts with various living, non-living, and imaginary elements, the Chinese have always been exceptionally inventive. A system like this was predicated on the premise that all natural events and objects on Earth mirrored Heaven’s will for how mankind should behave. As a result, auspicious incidents in China were written down or portrayed artistically with the assumption that doing so would repeat their favorable consequences.
One of the most prominent depictions of cranes on Chinese rugs is a red-crested crane flying among clouds and roses. This demonstrates longevity, wisdom, and majesty.
A crane standing next to a pine tree, a stone, a tortoise, or a deer is another typical image. The tortoise, like the crane, is a traditional symbol of longevity in China. According to Chinese beliefs, the combination of a tortoise and a crane is associated with longevity.
The pairing of a crane and a peach is one of the Chinese symbols of longevity due to their ties with immortals. They are both symbols of longevity in Chinese mythology.
Immortals are frequently depicted riding on cranes, and fabled peaches are claimed to bloom in Xiwangmu’s garden. The combination of peaches and immortals reminds me of Penglai, an island for immortals.
Furthermore, in numerous works of literature, art, and film, the crane represents hope. It has evolved into a powerful symbol of overcoming adversity and finding perseverance in difficult times. The crane’s ability to soar high into the sky is a metaphor for overcoming obstacles to achieving one’s aims and aspirations.
Twenty cranes appear in flight over the Golden Gate of the Imperial Palace in the painting “Auspicious Cranes” (瑞鹤图)) by Song dynasty Emperor Huizong (1082–1135), as though sent by Heaven to accept and recognize one of Huizong’s most outstanding days.. This was because he was about to complete his twelfth year as emperor. In Chinese tradition, twelve years mark the end of the earthly cycle. It was assumed that an emperor who reigned for twelve years might achieve more grandeur.
Huizong painted this image on silk because he thought it was a good omen. The majority of the flower-and-bird paintings, on the other hand, depicted private scenes, such as gorgeous courtyards. Emperor Huizong took a new position, concentrating on the vast sky. His design was really daring. While more than two-thirds of the painting is taken up by the clear sky with soaring cranes, the bottom one-third depicts the upper half of the royal gate surrounded by clouds, which also symbolize auspiciousness.
Cranes: Various Pose, Various Meanings
In general, the presence of a crane, regardless of its posture, is associated with wealth, joy, tranquility, and longevity. But first, consider the significance of the various positions.
- When depicted flying across the sky, it represents knowledge and long life. Most commonly used by people attempting to improve in their careers.
- The image of a crane standing on one leg with its wings spread wide symbolizes longevity.
- Two cranes flying or strolling toward each other also symbolize longevity.
- It indicates a long life when presented alongside a spotted deer beneath a pine tree.
- Cranes among the peony petals represent longevity and fortune.
- Cranes signify purity and longevity on lotus blooms.
- The image of a crane rising toward the sun indicates a desire for social advancement.
- A crane standing on a great stone and gazing at the sun represents a powerful ruler who sees everything.
- Its spiritual meaning indicates a happy afterlife when represented as flying toward heaven. This is because folklore has it that it serves as an escort for ghosts on their way to paradise.
- Because it is a magnificent bird with graceful flying, it commonly accompanies presents and gifts to people boarding an airplane, indicating a smooth flight.
Incorporating Cranes in Feng Shui
In Feng Shui, cranes are considered to be powerful symbols of good fortune and are often used to attract positive energy into a space. Here are some ways you can incorporate cranes into your home decor to enhance the flow of positive energy:
1. Place a Pair of Cranes in Your Home
According to Feng Shui principles, placing a pair of cranes in your home can bring harmony and balance to your relationships. The cranes should be placed in the southwest corner of your home, which is associated with love and relationships. You can choose to display a pair of ceramic or wooden cranes, or even opt for a painting or sculpture of cranes.
2. Hang a Painting of Cranes in Your Office
If you want to attract success and prosperity in your career, consider hanging a painting of cranes in your office. The cranes should be depicted flying upwards, symbolizing growth and progress. This will help to create a positive and productive work environment.
3. Display a Ceramic Crane in Your Wealth Corner
In Feng Shui, the southeast corner of your home is associated with wealth and abundance. Placing a ceramic crane in this area can help attract good fortune and prosperity into your life. You can also choose to display a pair of cranes in this area to enhance the energy.
Cranes hold a special position in Chinese culture due to their significance, which transcends their aesthetic appeal. They are associated with longevity, immortality, nobility, integrity, harmony, peace, intelligence, and intellect, in addition to affluence, good fortune, enduring love, purity, and cleanliness.
In addition, cranes have been regarded as auspicious in Feng Shui for centuries. It is believed that the bird’s erect posture and long, slender legs represent stability and strength, bringing a sense of serenity and wellness to any environment. Feng Shui practitioners believe that incorporating cranes into their homes or workplaces attracts positive energy, longevity, prosperity, and wisdom.
Crane symbolism has been passed down from one generation to the next, and it continues to inspire and enthrall people today.
Have you used cranes in your home decor? How has it affected your energy and well-being? Let us know in the comments.