Episode 119: One-Foot Bird

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Today we will talk about a mythical animal in Chinese mythology, a one-foot bird. The creature is called ShangYang 商羊. In the nature, some birds like herons or cranes sometimes stand with one foot so I assume this mythical animal ShangYang might be based on those birds. This mythical one-foot bird always dances before the rain. So since rain normally was regarded as beneficial in the agriculture society like ancient China, ShangYang was a lucky mythical animal.


In the book KongZiJiaYu 孔子家语from the early Han dynasty around 206 BC ~ 220 AD, a collection of sayings of Confucius as a supplement to the book Analects 论语. I am not sure how much the stories in this book KongZiJiaYu really are about Confucius. It says, there was a kind of one-foot bird in the place Qi 齐. The bird jumped and danced around in the palace and people were upset and invited Confucius to solve the problem. Confucius said, “this bird is called ShangYang , a lucky bird to bring water. In the old times, kids like to jump around with one foot like the bird and singing a song about the coming rain. Now the bird shows up. We need to inform people the coming rain and repair dikes to prevent flooding. ” A few days after Confucius’ words, heavy rains fell in the place.


There is a ritual of praying for rain in the ancient China maybe in some places today that people would dress up as a bird with a mask and jump with one foot. There is a pose with one foot jumping in some traditional Chinese dance called ShangYang dance.



孔子家语 KongZiJiaYu

论语 Analects

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