The crane is a bird that is probably second only to the phoenix in feng shui symbolism. That is… if you even consider the celestial creature that is the phoenix as a bird.
Elegant in posture and graceful in movement, cranes are generally good luck birds and a powerful symbol of longevity.
So positively regarded is the bird that it is commonly used in phrases for expression. Most often in greetings meant to wish for and convey longevity.
They also come in 4 colors of black, white, blue and yellow in Chinese mythology, with black being the one with the longest life.
So when you see a black crane painting when visiting a friend’s house, don’t for a moment think that it is dirty or a bird of the dark arts. It just means that this person knows his feng shui.
During the ancient days, high ranking government officials wore clothing embroidered with the crane as the bird conferred the title of first rank among birds.
The mannerism of the crane also led it to being associated with noblemen.
When perched on a rock surrounded by water, it refers to a high ranking civil servant.
A particular painting of the zither or gu qin (古琴) which is an oriental musical instrument with the crane is a reference to upright incorrupt government officials with moral values.
But above all, most people go with the depiction of an immortal riding on the back of a crane cruising in the sky.
There’s of course a story behind that.
Legend of the crane
The most prominent myth regarding the crane was about a magitrate of LiaoNing named Ding Ling Wei (丁令威).
The benevolent man kept 2 cranes as pets and one decided to fly away one day. When an extended drought struck the city, he opened the warehouse that kept the government’s foodstuff supplies to give food to the victims. His execution was ordered for this act. As a final wish, he asked for the emperor to grant him the pleasure of feeding his pet crane one last time. When he fed his crane, the one that left him those year ago appeared, pecked off the ropes that tied him, took him on it’s back and flew into the sky… disappearing into the heavens. Hundreds of years later, a crane flew down to the southern mountains of LiaoNing, balanced itself on an ornamental pillar and sang a song mentioning Ding in the lyrics. People later pieced the puzzle together and realized that the crane was actually Ding himself as he had transformed into a crane and attained immortality.
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Crane were also commonly referenced in peoms and novels written by famous historical figures.
The postures that the great bird takes up also bares significance.
For example when it is frolicking, it represents prestige. When soaring, it signifies career advancement and personal development.
It can also sometimes make an appearance in Chinese funerals as there is a superstitious belief that the crane serves as an escort to souls towards heaven.
Placement of cranes
Because cranes are one of the largest species of birds in the world, when getting life-sized statues of sculptures, they are best placed outdoors as part of the overall landscape design.
This makes them ideal for accompanying outdoor water features for them to frolic.
Smaller sized crane carvings or paintings can be placed indoors in the health locations since they are majestic symbols of longevity.
Since they also carry connotations to status and nobility, placement in the south sector is also acceptable.
When placed in wealth corners, they can bring good fortune to descendants and encourage wealth via ethical means.
When cranes are depicted in pairs, it is a symbol of family bliss and harmony enjoyed by the whole household.
They there therefore appropriate for bedrooms and living rooms.