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Phoenix

Fenghuang (凤凰 phoenix) is a legendary divine bird and the king of all birds. Feng (凤) is male, and huang (凰) is female. Beginning in the Qin and Han dynasties, emperors were referred to as long (龙dragons) while queens and royal concubines were called feng (凤phoenix), so fenghuang came to mean women only. The description of the phoenix as a species and its image changed over the centuries, eventually making it a divine bird with both bird and animal features. For example, in Guo Pu’s Commentaries on Er Ya, the phoenix is described as “a colorful six-chi-tall bird with a chicken’s head, a swallow’s jaw, a snake’s neck, a turtle’s back, and a fish’s tail.” In the very early days, the phoenix was probably just a primitive tribal totem. Later, however, it became a symbol of peace and prosperity. It was also used to bless marriages, as it represents nobleness, harmony, auspiciousness, and happiness. Like the dragon, the phoenix is an important cultural symbol of the Chinese nation.

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It is said in an ancient poem: “When the phoenixes dance, their wings are as strong as shields, and they sing as beautifully as melody from a vertical bamboo flute. So the king is overjoyed by the presence of both male and female phoenixes.” This is indeed a great fortune because it suggests the king remains clear-minded and has a penetrating vision.

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When the country is well-governed and all the people are enlightened, the phoenixes will come to dance.

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The phoenix is the king of all birds. Once a phoenix dies, its partner cannot overcome sadness and will not mate with another, though there are many available.

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