The story, Swan Goose Delivering Letters, originates from the anecdote “Su Wu Tends Sheep” recorded in Biographies of Li Guang and Su Jian, History of the Han Dynasty. In the period under the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, the Han’s envoy Su Wu, detained by the Xiongnu, would rather die than surrender. After ascending the throne, Emperor Zhao married the daughter to the Xiongnu’s chief and requested for handing over Su Wu and other envoys. But the Xiongnu’s chief made a lie that Su had died. The Han’s envoy visited the Xiongnu again and discovered Su, and then said to the chief that the Emperor shot a swan goose in the Shanglin Garden with a silk letter tied on the goose leg which said that Su Wu was herding sheep by a remote lake (today’s Baikal). Then the Xiongnu’s chief had to send back Su Wu and other envoys to the Han court. From then on, the story Swan Goose Delivering Letters has been widely spread and deemed as a symbol for letter communication. Moreover, the swan goose, a migrant bird flying southward and northward with season changes, often arouses travelers’ homesickness. So, people use swan geese to embody the homesick emotion.
Both the original painting