Legend of Xiamen's city bird - the Egret

Updated: 06 Nov 2009
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Walking along the streets of Xiamen, you can see many signboards with the name of egret (鹭 Lu). Xiamen people like to use the word ‘egret’ to name the roads, parks, hotels and even their children. Egret is the city bird of Xiamen.



With slender bodies and beautiful snow-white feathers, egrets are the world's birds which belong to the heron family of birds. They like to live in marshes, lakes and humid forests. At present, there are more than 30000 egrets living in Xiamen, which is the biggest habitat of egrets in China.



 Egrets in Yundang Lake


Egrets can be seen in many parks, islets and lakes in Xiamen. They dabble freely in the water and hover happily over the trees, creating many harmonious pictures with the surrounding sceneries.


There is an age-old legend in Xiamen. Long long ago, Xiamen was a desert island without any plants. One day, a flock of migrating egrets flew to Xiamen and briefly rested at the shore. The leading egret found that this island was surrounded by seas full of fatty fish and there were no threats from snakes and hunters. 


 Goddess of egret figure in Gulangyu


The leading egret then decided to settle down with its companions and they started building their home later. Some egrets dug the earth with their beaks and claws to search for water, and others fetched many flower and grass seeds from the island and planted them in soil. The island soon became full of colour and attracted many other birds to settle down.


Such beautiful scenery drew the attention of the snake king occupying the East China Sea. The snake king, who vainly attempted to seize the island, turned the island upside down with it's fellow snakes. The egrets fought the snake king desperately to protect their home. Finally, the snake king was driven away, but the leading egret also lay bleeding to death.


Flame tree - the city tree of Xiamen 


A few years later, a big tree grew up from the soil that was fertilized with the leading egret’s blood. Its leaves opened as the winds of the egret while its flowers are as red as egret’s blood. This tree came to be known as the flame-tree.


After driving the snake away, egrets who could frolic in this place again became the owner of this beautiful island. From this legend sprang the initial name of Xiamen – Egret Island.


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