In many parts of the world cranes are revered as the messengers of the gods. Cranes are symbols of happiness, justice, diligence, purity, loyalty, piety, filial gratitude, beauty, and love.
Their migratory flight made them symbols of endurance and their wings were once used as talismans to protect travellers from exhaustion.
In China and Japan cranes are symbols of longevity and immortality. It was believed that these birds had a special breathing technique which enabled them to live for thousands of years.
Humans tried to copy their breathing in order to lengthen their lives and possibly even obtain immortality.
Some believe that a mysterious crane cult existed in China during the Chou and Han Dynasties.
Cranes were steeds of the gods and in China humans on stilts performed the Crane Dance as an imitation of the crane's flight to the Isle of the Immortals.
In Japan cards and paintings of cranes along with other symbols of longevity such as the turtle are suitable gifts for the aged.
The Crane Dance, modeled on the bird's mating ritual, is performed by humans as an expression of love. It is thought to have its origins in a long forgotten solar cult.
In some countries ballerinas and loose women are called "cranes."
The crane's habit of standing on one leg led to the legend that at night the flock forms a circle around its king.
Its loyal guards are said to hold a rock in one foot so that if they fall asleep the rock will fall on their other foot waking them up.
This story has made the crane a symbol of vigilance. This bird's strange posture has also made it a symbol of contemplation, self-knowledge, and wisdom.