Feng Huang the Chinese Phoenix

by jptanabe

The Feng Huang is a sacred mythical bird in Chinese culture. Similar to the Western Phoenix, it has several important differences.

The Feng Huang is a legendary or mythical creature; in some ways it is the Chinese version of the Western phoenix. In actual fact, though, there are many differences between them.

First off, the Feng Huang is actually a composite of two birds, the male Feng and the female Huang. Both look the same and modern tradition has combined them into a single bird - the Feng Huang.

Secondly, unlike the Western phoenix which goes through a never-ending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, the Feng Huang is immortal and never dies.

Image of Feng Huang statue
from Wikimedia Commons.

Feng Huang - The Beautiful, Sacred Chinese Bird

The Feng Huang is a mythical, legendary creature. It is a sacred Chinese bird, the most beautiful of all the birds in China. It never kills a living creature, eating only leaves and seeds and even those with care so as not to damage any plant. It is a composite of many creatures, including the cock, swallow, snake, tortoise, stag, and even in some accounts has the tail of a fish.

The Feng Huang is gloriously adorned with feathers of all colors, its tail colored red, azure, yellow, white, and black. Feng Huang sings a special sweet song, which is said to be the source of the Chinese five note musical scale.

Unlike the Western phoenix, the Feng Huang is immortal. It does not go through a cycle of death and rebirth, but rather lives eternally, appearing on the earth at special times.

Fong Hoang, The Chinese Phoenix
Fong Hoang, The Chinese Phoenix

Feng Huang Symbolism

According to Chinese mythology, the Feng Huang, together with the dragon, unicorn, and tortoise, created the world and they now govern the heavens. The Feng Huang governs the southern quadrant and so is associated with the sun; it is a symbol of summer and spiritual balance. It is considered the emperor of all birds, which follow the Feng Huang when they fly.

As the unity of male and female, or yang and yin, the Feng Huang often symbolizes marital harmony. Interestingly, although the Feng Huang is itself two birds, a male and a female, the Feng Huang is also considered the female partner of the male dragon.

The Feng Huang is linked to the royal family. Together with the dragon, images of the Feng Huang were embroidered on the robes of Chinese sovereigns.

The immortal Feng Huang lives far away from human beings and only appears at the dawning of an age of peace and prosperity, or when a benevolent new emperor is born. Thus the arrival of the Feng Huang is considered a blessed and wonderful event.

Feng Huang and Dragon outside the Summer Palace in Beijing

Feng Huang and Dragon outside the Summer Palace in Beijing
Feng Huang and Dragon outside the Summer Palace in Beijing

Colorful Feng Huang Figurine

Bejeweled Phoenix

Feng Huang in Art


Feng Huang have been very popular in Chinese artwork. This bird is often pictured in association with the dragon. The dragon represents the male, the yang, and the Feng Huang represents the female, the yin.


The pattern of the dragon and Feng Huang means auspiciousness and good luck.The dragon and Feng Huang together symbolize harmony and the happiness of marriage.

Considered the "emperor of birds" the Feng Huang symbolizes the five female virtues of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity.

Feng Huang Jewelry


Feng Huang jewelry in particular is often considered a good luck talisman, the Feng Huang representing peace and prosperity.

In old times wearing Feng Huang jewelry indicated that the person was of outstanding character, highly moral, and so only a few people were permitted to wear it.


More about Feng Huang

Feng Huang - article on New World Encyclopedia

Updated: 03/05/2023, jptanabe
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