The phoenix (凤凰) is one of the most well-known Chinese celestial creatures. Probably second only to the dragon.
In fact, together with the dragon, they almost exist as one.
So much so that whenever there is a discussion about dragons, the phoenix would somehow sneak into the discussion as well.
This is because when a phoenix is displayed or depicted with a dragon, the couple is the most multi-tiered good luck symbols in symolic feng shui.
This is probably a reason why in the dragon is a symbol of the emperor and the phoenix represents the empress.
On it’s own, the phoenix is a strong symbol of yang energy. But when partnered with the dragon, it takes on a yin characteristic.
By itself, the celestial bird is also associated with good fortune and the epitome of opportunity luck.
Therefore, it is often the symbol of choice for those that are experiencing bad luck as it is capable in turning around adverse circumstances.
In ancient writings, scholars describe the phoenix as symbolizing 5 human attributes which are also indicated by the 5 colors of it’s feathers.
- The head is virtue
- The wings is duty
- The back is morality
- The stomach is reliability
- The breast is humanity
The celestial animal is also said to be the king of all feathered creatures, much like how the chi lin is said to be the ruler of all furry animals.
It is also considered as the God of 4 winds.
Confucius once said that the lack of an appearance of the phoenix, together with other magical animals, is a sign of an unjust government and king.
In some parts of China, the phoenix represents a lover. While in other parts, it is related to the female genitalia.
When two phoenixes are displayed together, it signifies homosexuality described as “false male and empty female phoenix”.
There is also an expression “two phoenixes pierce the blossom” which represents connubial intercourse.
When depicted with peony flowers, it can take on the meaning of the beloved or young lovers.
This is often portrayed in paintings with children riding on the back of 3 phoenixes and carrying vases containing peonies and other flowers.
These days, the phoenix most often makes an appearance when there is a marriage. And together with the dragon, it is used as decorations and motifs to signify a marriage with blessings from the heavens.
In such displays. the dragon is always on the left and the phoenix on the right.
Legend of the phoenix
There is a common saying about “birds adoring the phoenix”. This is also often depicted in auspicious Chinese paintings.
This came about in the story when the phoenix was just a regular bird minding it’s own business and picking fruits discarded by others. It was a period when food was abundant and there was a lot of leftover food. The phoenix then cultivated the habit to keep all the fruits it can find and store then in it’s nest. As the great drought hit, food shortage become widespread and the phoenix welcomed the birds to feed from it’s reserves. As a mark of respect and gratitude, every bird presented the phoenix with one of their feathers. And on it’s birthday, all birds flocked to the phoenix to show their love.
There is also a legend about the cinnabar-colored phoenix.
The story is about a cinnabar-red phoenix born deep in a cinnabar-cave of the mountains at the south pole. This majestic phoenix became know as the Phoenix of the cinna-bar-mountain.
Very suiting as the phoenix is associated with the south and the color red.
Then there is a folklore about a dragon and phoenix appearing on the western and eastern mountains during a period of the Tang dynasty on the dragon boat festival. This was witnessed by a military official with his pregnant wife. His daughter was born the following year and she became the Empress Wu ZeTian. Thus, it became a symbol of nobility and good omen.
There is also a belief about the phoenix’s nirvana.
This is a ritual in which the celestial bird practices where it gathers wood from the Chinese parasol tree to set itself on fire. The phoenix will then rise from the ashes as if reborn like a molting lobster. Stronger and more powerful than before.
Placement of phoenix
Whether it is a carved statue, painting or figurine, the phoenix should be placed on an elevated position in the house.
Having it perched comfortably on top of shelves is a good configuration.
Because of it’s celestial powers, it can be placed in any directional sector of the house without negative effects.
Saying that, it is most potent when placed at the south as this sector is where it feels most at home.
When paintings contain both the dragon and phoenix, it is the symbol of a blessed marriage.
They shouldn’t have a significant presence in bedrooms.
Used as a personal emblem like a key-chain, the phoenix can encourage positivity, inner-strength, passion, and action.
The peacock understandably bears resemblance to the phoenix.
It is therefore often used by homeowners and feng shui practioners as a substitute to the phoenix, but with the same connotations.
The only problem is that only male peacock would resemble it. Thus, when peacocks are used as alternatives, it can only take on the yang role of the phoenix.