Lesson 11 Chinese Swallows 燕子

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Some Chinese animals are given certain symbolism and used in a metaphorical way to express human feelings.  We are familiar with dragons and fish in the Chinese culture, but the swallow also has a special meaning in Chinese culture.  The swallow is a messenger of spring and happiness in Chinese culture, and is seen as a symbol of good fortune.  If swallows nest in the roof of a Chinese family’s house, the hosts will never disturb them, because it’s believed that it will bring luck to the family.

“Yan” (燕) is an easily recognizable pictographic character. In oracle bone inscriptions, it features the image of a bird with an open mouth, unfolded wings and furcated tail. During the evolution of Chinese characters in the form and structure, “yan”(燕) has been giving us the imagination of spreading wings and extending feather.

As early as thousands of years ago, people had already known about the rule of migration of swallows. Since the swallows return in every spring, poets in all ages have been glorifying and eulogizing the bird as the symbol of spring. Moreover, since the swallows often fly in pair in the sky, those couples in love are compared to the swallows perching in pair.  In Chinese culture, the swallow is a bird symbolic of feminine grace and beauty. 赵飞燕 zhào fēiyàn (literally ‘flying swallow Zhao’) was an empress of the Han dynasty famed to this day for her slender beauty. 燕 yàn is still frequently used in girls’ names in China.

In class we listened to a children song called 小燕子 or Little Swallow.  You can watch and listen to the song below.


We learned how to paint a swallow step by step.  See the children painting below.


Jachin adds finishing touch to his swallow


Ava paints a giant swallow

Brooks concentrating on painting


Ananya works on the second swallow

Lolo paints a tree


Bodhi paints many swallows


Katrina adds details

Ali paints swallows flying

Annabelle works on her painting



Kaya adds more details to the tree

Jachin adds another swallow to his painti













After all that hard work… Look at our finished paintings! 



Milo proudly holds her paintings


Coco’s colorful swallow


Katrina’s finished painting


Annabelle holds her painting


Lolo holds her swallow


Carlotta and her swallow


Kaya and her painting


Jachin paints swallows flying


Franka paints a very well fed swallow


Brooks paints a weeping willow with his swallows


Ali proudly holds her painting


Paula paints a pair of swallows symbolizing love


Quinn paints a swallow perching on a tree



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