The Azalea and The Cuckoo

What do the azalea and the cuckoo have in common?  I should have asked my learned Northern Hemisphere friends who are no doubt about to post pictures of both on their blogs.  However, if my friends ask me this question, I would tell them that the azalea and the cuckoo share the same name in Chinese: 杜鵑 (du juan) and yes, there is a story to go with it.

The best of Chinese legends involve the Emperor and his concubine; not just any concubine but his favourite concubine.  It goes without saying that she was a legendary beauty.  Everyone agrees on this part of the story.  Then there are variations around this theme but the ending usually comes to this:

After the emperor died he transformed into the cuckoo bird so he can visit his concubine in the garden.  He sings to her  until his throat bleeds, thus colouring the spring flowers (azalea) red.   Another version has the concubine turning into the flowers. Whether the story is true, the person who gave names to flowers and birds obviously believed it.  Thus the azalea and the cuckoo are forever bound; they share the same name:  杜鵑 (du juan).

About Mary Tang

An urban orchardist everyday, a volunteer regularly, a poet sometimes and a blogger since March 2015. I travel when I can. Food is a constant.
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