Chinese Cultural Symbol: Phoenix
The phoenix has proved an enduring allegorical symbol, symbolizing rebirth, renewal or uniqueness and often appears in modern popular culture. In China and Japan the phoenix was a symbol of the imperial house, and it represented "fire, the sun, justice, obedience, and fidelity". It is the second most-respected legendary creature (second to the dragon), largely used to represent the empress and females.
In China, phoenix, or “Fenghuang”, reigns over all other birds. The males are called Feng and the females Huang. In modern times, however, such a distinction of gender is often no longer made and the Feng and Huang are blurred into a single feminine entity so that the bird can be paired with the Chinese dragon, which has male connotations.
The Fenghuang was thought to be made up of the beak of a cock, the face of a swallow, the neck of a snake, the breast of a goose, the back of a tortoise, hindquarters of a stag and the tail of a fish. It is also called the "August Rooster" since it sometimes takes the place of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac. In the West, it is commonly referred to as the Chinese phoenix.
The Chinese phoenix is an extremely kind creature, which is why the legends of the phoenix do not contain any elements of vengefulness; the bird simply shuns away from those who fail to meet its high moral standards. In fact, the phoenix is so docile that it only consumes morning dew – in order to avoid causing harm to any animals or plants.
The Chinese phoenix has very positive connotations. It is a symbol of high virtue, grace, justice and graciousness. It appears in peaceful and prosperous times but hides when trouble is near.
Shan Hai Jing (Collection of the Mountains and Seas), a fabled geographical and cultural book of pre-Qin China as well as a collection of mythology, records each part of Fenghuang's body symbolizes a word, the head represents virtue (“de”), the wing represents duty, the back represents propriety, the abdomen says belief and the chest represents mercy.
The phoenix is often depicted together with the symbol for masculinity and the emperor, a dragon. Together, they symbolize the emperor and empress, or more commonly, blissful relations between husband and wife, another common yin and yang metaphor.
In this eternal union, the phoenix represents female virtues, such as charm and beauty. For this reason, the wedding dresses worn by Chinese brides are often decorated with a picture of the phoenix.
In Chinese families, a child, as especially twins, are always considered a blessing. If someone has the great fortune of getting a boy and a girl baby at the same time, it means that the entire family has been bestowed with the greatest benediction. These sets of boy-girl twins are referred to as ong feng bao, or dragon-phoenix twins.
If a phoenix was used to decorate a house it symbolized that loyalty and honesty was in the people that lived there. Jewelry with the phoenix design showed that the wearer was a person of high moral values, and so the phoenix could only be worn by people of great importance.
Learn more about Jade & Chinese Symbolism:
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Dragon
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Phoenix
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Butterfly
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Fish
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Plum Blossom
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Bamboo
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Lotus