1.The hobby of bird keeping has been a famous tradition in China since the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911).
2.It was initiated by the elite Manchu banner men – the nobles of the Qing dynasty – and the eunuchs in the royal court. They didn’t need to work thanks to sufficient monthly subsidies and a hereditary system that guaranteed the succession of their father’s title and land. Therefore keeping birds was a way of passing the time.
3.The hobby is called 提笼架鸟 Tí long ( carrying the bird cages) jià niǎo (keeping birds on perches) and it is often used to criticize idle men.
4. There are 2 main criteria for good song birds: beautiful appearance and the pleasing birdsong.
5.The most popular songbirds are mynahs, thrushes, larks and huamei. Huamei bird sings beautifully and is known for its light-colored hair above its eyes that look like eyebrows. The lark bird , apart from its own melodious notes, is said to be able to imitate 13 kinds of birds, as well as other animals like cats.
6. Songbirds are kept in handmade bamboo cages with a hanger built into the top. Many of them are very well-trained - its not uncommon to hear a mynah belting out the entire Chinese National Anthem, or a bird hung in the doorway of a shop welcoming passersby to come in for a look ( sometimes one bird can speak a few Chinese dialects!)
7. Bird lovers believe that birds should not be cooped up indoors. If the owners won't take their caged companions out for a stroll, the birds will become lonely and depressed, which will reduce their will to sing. Taking a bird for a walk is the best way to keep it healthy and vigorous.
8. While walking their birds, a bird's owner will swing the cage back and forth like a pendulum, forcing the bird to get a bit of exercise as it clings to its perch.
9. Once in the park, the birdcages are hung near each other on low hanging tree branches, giving the birds a chance to socialize while their owners do the same. They can compare the birds and exchange care tips.
10. Prices for the songbirds vary greatly. For instance, a normal thrush or lark costs around 100 yuan , but birds with better throats can cost more than 500 yuan, or even thousands.