The phoenix is a symbolic animal that stands for resurrection and the renewal of life. After death, legend has it that this animal rises from its own ashes.
The phoenix is a very strong and popular symbol of life in Asian mythology. Much like the dragon, it is a chimerical creature and one of the four divine animals. While the dragon is said to symbolize the male attributes of the emperor, the phoenix represents the female in the empress, following the concept of yin-yang.
Similarly, the ancient Mayas, Toltecs, and Aztecs viewed the phoenix as a sacred bird. As Quetzalcoatl, this wondrous bird was thought to be the benevolent representative of the sun god or even the main god himself.
In Buddhism, on the other hand, the phoenix is said to embody wisdom and energy. The story relates that while meditating, Buddha received these sustaining gifts from the bird—who also protected him from demons by covering him with mighty wings. Both the Buddhist and the Taoist religions claim that the virtuous phoenix is a part of Western Paradise, which is the heaven of purple clouds and great visions that people will reach after death riding the back of the swiftest of all birds: the phoenix.
The phoenix comprises parts of several other animals, uniting their positive attributes and allowing it to rise above the other 360 varieties of our feathered friends. At the age of three, the phoenix’s plumage allegedly displays five different colors that symbolize the five cardinal virtues: uprightness, honesty, justice, fidelity, and benevolence.
The legends all agree that a phoenix’s appearance was most rare, only occurring during times of peace when people were virtuous and life was prosperous. The phoenix never showed itself in times of destruction, war, or pestilence. A pair of phoenixes was an even rarer sight: when this happened, it was taken as a sign that a wise man was on the throne and prosperity prevailed.
The phoenix symbolized time as happiness, prosperity, and wisdom.