Vermilion Bird: Fire Spirit of Heaven

Zhu Que

Mythology of Vermilion Bird

The Vermilion Bird is one of the Four Symbols in ancient Chinese mythology, representing the southern direction associated with the Yan Emperor and the southern constellation. In the Bagua, it corresponds to 'Li(離)' and in the Five Elements, it represents fire. Symbolizing the old yang among the Four Symbols and the summer season among the four seasons, it resembles a bird with its body enveloped in flames, which never extinguish throughout the day.

Vermilion Bird VS FengHuang/Phoenix

Different Origins

  • The Vermilion Bird appeared earlier than the Phoenix. The Vermilion Bird first appeared on oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty, while the Phoenix was first mentioned in the Warring States period's "Classic of Mountains and Seas."
  • The Vermilion Bird is one of the Four Symbols (Azure Dragon, White Tiger, Vermilion Bird, Black Tortoise), representing the south and fire. It is a fierce divine bird often protecting celestial beings.
  • The Phoenix is one of the Four Mythological Creatures (Dragon, Phoenix, Qilin, Turtle), representing virtues like benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity. It is an auspicious divine bird often symbolizing royalty or virtuous individuals.

Different Images

  • The Vermilion Bird is typically depicted as a large red bird with sharp eyes and beak, emitting flames from its body.
  • The Phoenix is described as having the head of a rooster, the beak of a swallow, the neck of a snake, the back of a tortoise, the tail of a fish, and colorful plumage.

Different Meanings

  • The Vermilion Bird is a symbol of fire, associated with the sun, daytime, life, as well as destruction, and war. It is the leader of the southern celestial seven mansions and the master of the southern fire direction in Feng Shui.
  • The Phoenix is a symbol of benevolence and virtue, associated with peace, auspiciousness, nobility, as well as arts like music and poetry. Regarded as the king of birds, it possesses a noble appearance and melodious voice, considered a symbol of imperial power and talent.