The swallow is not just a bird, but a harbinger of spring.
In geographic areas that goes through the 4 seasons, as soon one observes swallows having fun in the sky, it’s a sign that spring is here.
Their unmistakable body shape when flying is so unique that few would have problems identifying them.
Spending most of their time in the air, seldom do we see them perched on trees or structures.
Unlike common birds like sparrows and pigeons, the sight of swallows is something children find special enough to point them out in the sky.
And even though they are small in size compared to many other types of birds, their sheer speed, especially when diving, makes them a worthy opponent to be revered.
So adored is the cute swallow bird by the Chinese in general, that many people incorporate it’s mandarin word yan (燕) into their names. Even several celebrities used the word as part of their stage names.
Together with the oriole, bee and butterfly, they are collectively known as the four friends of flowers (花间四友).
Legend of swallows
In Chinese mythology, swallows are believed to spend winters in the sea after transforming themselves into mussels. Then returns to land with the arrival of spring.
When swallows built their homes at someone’s house, it is said to be a special event representing the arrival of success, blessings and children. These species of birds are very particular with where to build their nests.
It can also mean that someone is going to get married soon.
In graphical representation of the 5 human relationships, the swallow signifies the bond between an elder and younger brother.
There is also a billion-dollar industry built around the harvesting and consumption of bird’s nest. These specifically refer to swallow’s nest.
While many people contest the supposed health benefits of consuming bird’s nest (as with most TCM remedies), there is no doubt that there must be something more about it than just a belief when this consumption pattern has survived for centuries.
The supposed health benefit is about beauty and anti-aging. Especially for skin complexion.
I must admit that I have helped myself to many servings of bird’s nest snacks and beverages over the years. Too much to count.
They make great gifts in Chinese festivities like CNY, birthdays of elders, or people who are recovering from injuries. They are also often found in gift hampers.
When depicted with a horse in paintings or artifacts, it symbolizes a quicker route to success and personal achievements.
A common item sold in stores is a horse in full flight with a swallow bird below.
This basically associates the horse as having the speed of the swallow.
The swallow is most often found in the practice of feng shui as soaring birds in artwork.
They add life and yang energy to otherwise boring and dull landscape paintings. And because of their unique form in flight, it is easy to identify them in paintings.
They have no negative connotations.
And on it’s own in paintings or design motifs, they generally represent happiness and blessings.