The Ruler of the Roost
I have a strange interest when it comes to traveling overseas. I am fascinated by visiting any Asian country. From Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Tibet, and China, I love their cultures, people, and places. I have a guest bedroom in my home called Zhõngguó— Fáng, (中国房), which means the China Room. The walls are covered with photos that I have taken and all the objects in the room are from Tibet or China.
Recently, while looking for some information on the Internet, I happened to come across an essay about the Chinese version of the Western concept of the phoenix. The Greeks came up with the notion of the phoenix (φοῖνιξ), which has an extremely long lifespan, which could range up to a thousand years. However, when it dies, the phoenix is consumed by a fire, which results in the emergence of a resurrected phoenix. The University of Chicago uses the phoenix for its logo.
Interestingly, I have that logo in several parts of my home due to two personal resurrections that occurred for me because of the U of C. My first resurrection occurred because Dr. Wendy Olmsted, a professor there, taught me to write, which I consider an academic resurrection. Additionally, less than a decade ago, the University of Chicago saved my life due to prostate cancer.
An interesting aside regarding the phoenix being the logo of the university, it wasn't due to resurrecting the city of Chicago due to the Great Chicago Fire on October 10, 1871. While that seemed like a good idea if someone thought of it.
Another logical possible reason for the University of Chicago was that the first nuclear chain reaction took place under the football field on December 2, 1942. This experiment made the Manhattan Project possible, which resulted in two cities being consumed in the fires of the two atomic bombs dropped during WWII. However, they were reborn into two new cities out of their ashes.
In reality, the football coach of the University of Chicago, Amos Alonzo Stagg, didn't like the old mascot, which was the goldenrod flower, thus, the actual legacy of the use of the phoenix as the university's logo.
In China, the phoenix storyline is different than the Greek death and rebirth narrative. The male phoenix is known as feng and the female is huang . The beginning of the Chinese phoenix occurred during the Han Dynasty 2,200 years ago. Nevertheless, during the Yuan Dynasty and the time of Kublai Khan, in the late 13th century, the Chinese culture moved into having the phoenix that was the female. The male phoenix was now seen as the dragon. I have spent a lot of time attempting to explain that morphing of the male phoenix into a dragon. It hasn't yielded anything explaining that made sense to me.
It should be noted that I have two large wooden sculptures of dragons from China. Interestingly, the Chinese later started to refer to the phoenix as the king of birds.
This is a Chinese painting entitled, The 100 Birds Paying Homage To the Phoenix . If your eyes are exacting, you can exactly see 100-birds looking to the phoenix as the ruler of the roost. Whichever way you wish to perceive the phoenix, it is an amazing backstory to either the Greek or Chinese mindset.