Feng 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.

Another 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 Chinese phoenix.



If you know of any other interesting links, please let me know!