Birds in Kuan Yin Iconography

Kuan Yin isn’t so strange a figure to be present in a bird shaman’s life.

unknown artist

She is often depicted with birds. Most commonly, it is with a swallow (sometimes very stylized and phoenix-like) which carries a string of prayer beads in its beak. This bird represents light in the darkness, especially through devotion.

Sometimes the bird is more pigeon or dove-like, representing grace and peace.

Where Kuan Yin is depicted as Bringer of Children, carrying a baby, the bird represents fertility. (The older child or children she is sometimes shown with are her retainers.)

She is often shown with cranes, which are symbolic of almost everything good in Chinese art, including longevity, wisdom, advancement, and the soul.

One story of Kuan Yin tells of her giving her thousand eyes to the peacock as a way to remind the animals that she is always present and watching over them.

by Susan Farrell

Little wonder my closest spirit allies feel so at home with her.


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