Life in China: A Picture A Day, February 29, 2016

It’s always interesting how things can have such different symbolism in different cultures. The owl or mao tou ying (pronounced mow (rhymes with cow) toe ying), literally translated as “cat-headed hawk” is one of these: Where as in much of Western culture the owl is considered “wise”, in China an owl is looked at as a bad luck symbol, frightening because it has traditionally been considered a sign of death. Because of this, it isn’t common to see owls depicted much, although once again, modern times are changing the thinking of at least the younger generation. Although there are about 30 different species of owls in China, I unfortunately have never seen an owl in the wild here. This picture, a Buffy Fish Owl, is from our recent trip to Singapore, it looks very similar to the Tawny Fish Owl, which can be found where we live, so I thought I’d use it to explain the symbolism of owls in Chinese culture.