Huang (pronounced "F-uh-ng W-ah-ng", with an "uh" and an
"ah" in-between) is the Chinese name for the marvelous bird the Western world calls
the Phoenix. Like the dragon and the unicorn, tales abound all
over the world about this immortal bird, but each human culture has its
own unique description and behavior of the Phoenix. Here, I will
focus on the Chinese legends.
Feng Huang first appeared to the Chinese emperor Hung Ti around
2600 BCE. Like the ki-lin, the Chinese unicorn, Feng Huang only
appears in times of peace and prosperity, usually when a new benign
emperor ascends the throne. It is one of the four celestial
creatures that the Chinese believed created the world (the other three
being the dragon, the unicorn and the tortoise). After the creation of
the world, the heavens were divided into four quadrants, one for each
creature: north, south, east and west; and Feng Huang ruled over the
southern quadrant of heaven, which represented summer, and hence the
sun. Feng Huang is also called the emperor of birds because all the
other birds of the sky would follow it in flight in homage to it.
|Unlike the Phoenix of Western
mythology, Feng Huang is in fact TWO birds. Many Chinese names for a
creature are the combination of the male name and female name.
Feng is the male bird and Huang is the female bird. The male is
the yang and represents the solar cycle and summer, while the female is the yin, the
lunar cycle, and a symbol of the Chinese empresses.
||Description and Behavior:
Many descriptions abound on the appearance of the Chinese phoenix,
but the most consistent detail is that it has a very colorful and fiery
plumage, especially the tail, which is colored in the five sacred
colors: red, blue, yellow, white, and black. Most tales say
that its head and body is that of a pheasant, and it's feathers
are like a peacock. One other interesting description is
that it has THREE legs, rather than two. However, all the
pictures of Feng Huang I've come across show only two legs.
difference between Feng Huang and the Phoenix is that Feng Huang
is a true immortal bird; it does not grow old and die to be
reborn again, like the Phoenix. Pictures depicting both
male and female birds together are symbolic of immortal love.
On Earth the Feng Huang nests
far away from humankind in the K'unlun mountains, in wu t'ung
trees. It is believed that if one plays a musical instrument while
sitting under such a tree, the Feng Huang will bless the musician by
adding its own sweet melody to the music.
Both male and female birds can sing the sweetest melody in the
five Chinese harmonic notes, and it is said that their tune was the
basis for the Chinese musical scale.
Sites on the Feng Huang exclusively are scarce and provide little
info (hence the purpose of my site!). Below are a couple
sites with info on the Phoenix in general with a small section on the
If you know of any other interesting links, please
let me know!