Episode 196: Ostrich

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In Chinese ostrich is called TuoNiao 鸵鸟. I am always curious about the name because Tuo 驼 means camels and Niao means birds. I though maybe ostrich kind of look like camels. But I am not convinced.




Until I saw a mythical animal recorded in the book TaiPingYuLan 太平御览, a book complied from the year 977 to 983 during the Song dynasty 宋朝. In the book, it says during the reign of Emperor GaoZong of Tang 唐高宗 around the year 650, the Kingdom of Tocharians 吐火罗gifted the emperor a big bird. Tocharians were Indo-European people who inhabited in the area of Xinjiang, the west-northern China today in ancient times. XinJiang is in the northeastern of Afghanistan today if you don’t know. The big bird was more than 2 meters tall and its feet looked like the feet of camel. I guess this is where the name is from. I checked the pictures of the feet of ostriches and camels and they do look alike. The bird has wings and can fly. They can run 300 miles per day and eats bronze and iron. Some people call it TuoNiao. The emperor considered his father Emperor TaiZong of Tang cared about the people from far away, he let people carved the bird in his cemetery.



Although this description is a little bit off the fact, it is pretty obvious it is about ostrich. Another earlier record about ostrich is from the book Book of the Later Han 后汉书covering the history from the year 25 to 220 compiled around the year 400. In the book, it also mentioned the bird has camel feet. It is amazing to see the trading in the ancient time since ostriches only live in Africa.



太平御览 TaiPingYuLan

后汉书 Book of the Later Han

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