All Birds Paying Homage to the Phoenix
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Phoenix has been deemed as a holy, noble and beautiful bird in the Chinese folk myths and was regarded as the king of all birds.
In Volume 915 of the comprehensive reference book ‘Readings of the Taiping Era’ (太平御览 Tai Ping Yu Lan) which was edited by Li Fang (李昉, 925–996) and other scholars in Northern Song dynasty, there was a quoted mythical story about the phoenix. It said that in a town called Hai Zhou, phoenix was miraculously spotted at the top of a castle. Hundreds of birds flew towards the phoenix and then followed it in the northeast direction towards the Cangwu Mountain.
Initially, the saying of ‘Hundreds of birds paying respect toward the phoenix’ was a metaphor to imply peace under a wise ruler who was highly respected and worshiped. This saying was later used to refer people who is of noble character and high prestige.
Fig 1-2: famille verte porcelain dish, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of the Shanghai Museum, China