Symbols - What does heaven look like
The crane takes on the symbolism of all birds, and in a very general sense is an allegory of a 'spiritually advanced' person. The fact that cranes are white and often have a 'crown' – a sort of tuft of feathers on the top of their heads makes them a symbol of an enlightened being.
A Dictionary of Symbols – J E Cirlot
In cultures ranging from the Chinese to those of the Mediterranean, the crane is an allegory of justice, longevity and the good and diligent soul
But a white crane has a very distinct meaning in the East and in particular within the martial arts community, we will see this in a moment.
The White crane flies
In Buddhist and Taoist Chi Kung the gradual rise of the energy generated by the techniques that they employ is charted according to the stages of energy conversion.
For a martial arts expert, it is something of an achievement when the energy reaches the level of the navel because they gain strength at this point and they refer to this as ‘the white crane flying’. But the navel is also a point of immense importance spiritually – the Dan Tieng cavity is also the place where energy can be stored ready for the final conversion from there – reversing the flow and then surging up the spine and the Thrusting vessel.
Ni Wan is the common name for the brain in Chinese Chi Kung and Yongquan is the cavity on the soles of the feet. Thus through training you are able to build up your herb [chi] within your body, from your head to your feet.
When Chi is trained at the Lower Dan Tien at the navel area, the White crane is then able to take you to the holy city. In effect, when a person has had this experience, his spirit can separate from his body and lightly fly away like a crane.
When a person dies, it is said that he ‘rides the crane to the west’. We have seen the symbolism of the west in the diagram for the spiritual path.