Phoenix And The Dragon

One of the dragons from The Nine Dragons handscroll (九龙图/九龍圖), painted by the Song-Dynasty Chinese artist Chen Rong (陈容/陳容) in 1244 CE.

One of the dragons from The Nine Dragons handscroll (九龙图/九龍圖), painted by the Song-Dynasty Chinese artist Chen Rong (陈容/陳容) in 1244 CE.

After trying, without success, to photograph birds this Saturday, I've still been thinking about them. Birds. And trees. Light and dark. So today I've been reading about mythical firebirds with brightly coloured plumage. The Phoenix lives a long life, and then is consumed by flames of its own making, only to rise again from the ashes. This lonely bird (there is only one Phoenix) is a universal symbol of the sun, mystical rebirth, resurrection and immortality and represents a cyclical process of life from death.

I discovered that the firebird is found in many cultures, the earliest found in the Egyptian Bennu (meaning “to rise brilliantly,” or “to shine”), the soul of the sun god Ra. The Persian sacred bird is called Huma or "the bird of paradise" or "bird of fortune" and looks similar to a heron. Compassionate Huma is said to have both the male and female natures in one body, each nature having one wing and one leg.

The Greeks and later the Romans called their firebird Phoenix, φοίνιξ, meaning the color purple-red or crimson and pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle. According to Greek legend, the Phoenix lived in Arabia close to a cool well. Every morning at dawn, it bathes in the water of the well and sings such a delightful and sweet song that Apollo (the god of light and the sun), would stop his chariot (the sun) to listen to the enchanting song.

Transient

Fenghuang is the Chinese correspondence to the phoenix, a chimera composited of many birds including the head of a golden pheasant, the body of a mandarin duck, the tail of a peacock, the legs of a crane, the mouth of a parrot, and the wings of a swallow. Gentle and immortal Fenghuang brings good fortunes and the expression "Dragon and Phoenix" signifies wedded bliss. And then I started to read about Chinese dragons, with their long, serpentine bodies, a supernatural or spiritual symbol of heavenly power... And all this started with flocks of birds that refused to let themselves be photographed.

© 2014 Marmalade Moon