The Asian paradise flycatcher is a unique looking small bird with males having exceptionally long tail feathers that can be two-three times the length of it’s body.
The mandarin name is shou dai niao (缓带鸟) which literally translates to color ribbon bird. While this can sound like a weird name for a bird, one would be able to understand why this name if he is lucky enough to observe it in it’s natural habitat. Especially in flight.
Their tails move about like a captivating performance at the Olympics ribbon event for rhythmic gymnastics.
I have been fortunate enough to see one during my travels. And as it was flying overhead, my immediate reaction was one of shock because I thought it was a phoenix due to the long tail feathers 😀 But then I realize what it really was when it landed under a canopy tree.
At this point it should be noted that this bird is sometimes confused with the Indian paradise flycatcher. They are actually a different species than the Asian paradise flycatcher.
The symbolism of this bird comes partly from it’s name and pair of long tail feathers.
The word 缓 is a homonym for the word 寿 which means longevity. And the long tail obviously carries the connotation of “long”. Therefore the paradise flycatcher is a strong symbol of longevity like the peach.
In addition to that the word 带 sound like the word 代 which means descendants and generations.
So the symbolism represents not just longevity for the protagonist, but also for his descendants.
When depicted with flowers such as lilies, it is a theme commonly known as flower bird that carries the meaning of good health and longevity.
They are also frequently found as distinctive birds in the 100 birds painting.
If this bird it portrayed with a stone, rock, or boulder, it is a reference to the longevity stone. And carries the meaning of life and youthfulness into old age for many generations to come.
So venerated is the symbol of the paradise flycatcher that it also made it’s way into the insignia of rank badges. Specifically that of the ninth grade of the Ming and Qing dynasty. You don’t get this type of recognition for nothing.