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
 
 
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. 

 
Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang Pattern on Blue and White Porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty
 

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

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 Zuiyuemenglong.
 

Archeologically, Fenghuang appeared during the neolithic period and is believed to represent bird totems and the worship of the sun.

Chinese Phoenix Fenghuang Shape Decoration of the Shijiahe Culture

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: