Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang — Legend, History, Utilization, and Culture
Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang, the King of Birds, is an auspicious mythical creature believed to only appear in peaceful and prosperous states.
Therefore, Fenghuang has been the symbol of prosperity, auspiciousness, virtue, righteousness, courtesy, benevolence, love, and faith, whose image has been widely used by royal females in history.
Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang, Drawn by Fu Shu.
What Is the Origin of Fenghuang?
In the ancient masterpiece, The Classic of Mountains and Seas, Fenghuang is a type of mythical colorful bird whose feather looks like five Chinese Characters: virtue (head), righteousness (wings), courtesy (back), benevolence (chest), and faith (belly).
They are beautiful creatures with free souls, melodic singing, and charming dance, and they only show up in peaceful and flourishing kingdoms.
According to ancient legend, there are five ranks of appearing Fenghuang, based on the extent of a place's auspiciousness and prosperity.
From the least to most are:
Fenghuang appears and flys over the sky;
Fenghuang hovers in the sky;
Fenghuang lives for a while;
Fenghuang lives and leaves regularly;
Fenghuang settles permanently.
A Pair of Chinese Phoenixes Fenghuang, Picture by FY Ruyi.
In other folklore, as the King of Birds, seeing Fenghuang accepting homage from countless other birds is also supremely auspicious.
Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang Accepting Homage of other Birds, Picture by Li Linxin.
Archeologically, Fenghuang appeared during the neolithic period and is believed to represent bird totems and the worship of the sun.
Appearances and Types of Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang.
Fenghuang inhabits Chinese Parasol (also named Phoenix Tree), eats from nature, and drinks from fresh springs. It has the jaw of a swallow, the beak of a rooster, the head of a wild goose, the neck of a snake, the hindquarters of a Qilin, the back of a tortoise, and the tail of a fish.
Its head looks like the sky, eyes like the sun, back resembles the moon, wings shape like the wind, feet resemble the earth, and tail like planets.
Fenghuang usually has five colors and is classified into five types based on their primary colors:
What Is the Relationship Between Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang and Chinese Dragon Loong?
Chinese Dragon Loong and Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang, on many occasions, show up in pairs, when the dragon represents the male and Yang, and the phoenix is the female and Yin.
However, they are two different species with no connection in the beginning.
In ancient times, Feng was male, and Huang was female, and together, this creature is named Fenghuang, representing peace, honor, power, virtue, harmony, faith, and auspiciousness.
A Pair of Chinese Phoenixes, A Feng and A Huang, Drawn by Li Linxin.
Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang and Vermilion Bird Zhu Que, Which Is More Powerful?
If Fenghuang is believed to be the King of Birds, does it mean it is the most potent and honorable bird in Chinese Mythology?
Probably not; the Vermilion Bird is.
Vermillion Bird, or in Chinese Zhu Que, is the mythical creature that can lead deceased people's souls to heaven and represents Fire in the Five Element Theory.
In Chinese Astrology, Vermilion Bird Zhu Que is one of the Four Symbols representing summer, including the Seven Mansions in the Southern Sky.
Fenghuang In Ancient Mythology, Legends, and History.
After Yellow Emperor (about 2717 BC — 2599 BC) established a peaceful and prosperous empire, after Yu the Great (about 2123 BC — 2025 BC) defeated the vast flood, Fenghuang showed up in their grand celebration ceremonies, soaring and dancing in the sky.
A mythical bird named Xuanniao was worshiped as the ancestor of a clan whose descendants built the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC).
Therefore, this mythical bird, in some versions later evolved as Fenghuang or Phoenix, was the totem of the Shang Empire.
The only female emperor in China, Wu Zetian (624 — 705), is a descendant of the Zhou royal family and named her empire Zhou.
Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang Pattern on Bronze Cattle of the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC) — The Art Institute of Chicago (Photo by Dongmaiying)
What Does Fenghuang Symbolize?
With the evolvement of Fenghuang in legends and culture, it has been the symbol of:
Benevolence and Virtue
Peace and Nobility
Strong and Beauty
Auspiciousness and Brilliant People
Power and Prosperity
Beautiful and Noble Women
Chinese Dragon and Phoenix Patterns Porcelain Plate of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — Palace Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Harmony and Happiness
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