Fêng Huang

Fêng Huang.

A glorious bird, symbol of the Empress, therefore often associated with the dragon. The conception of this bird is probably based on the Argus pheasant. It is described as possessing every grace and beauty. A Chinese author, quoted by F. W. Williams in "The Middle Kingdom," writes: "It resembles a wild swan before and a unicorn behind; it has the throat of a swallow, the bill of a cock, the neck of a snake, the tail of a fish, the forehead of a crane, the crown of a mandarin drake, the stripes of a dragon, and the vaulted back of a tortoise. The feathers have five colours which are named after the five cardinal virtues, and it is five cubits in height; the tail is graduated like the pipes of a gourd-organ, and its song resembles the music of the instrument, having five modulations." Properly speaking, the female is Fêng, the male Huang, but the two words are usually given in combination to denote the species. Some one, probably in desperation, once translated the combined words as "phœnix," and this term has been employed ever since. It conveys, however, an entirely wrong impression of the creature. To Western readers, the word "phœnix" suggests a bird which, being consumed by fire, rises in a new birth from its own ashes. The Fêng Huang  has no such power, it is no symbol of hope or resurrection, but suggests friendship and affection of all sorts. Miss Lowell and I have translated the name as "crested love-pheasant," which seems to us to convey a better idea of the beautiful Fêng Huang, the bird which brings happiness.