"When the dragon soars and the phoenix dances, the people will enjoy happiness for years, bringing peace and tranquility to all under heaven." Old Chinese Saying, origin unknown
The Dragon and Phoenix are two of the 4 legendary creatures that guard the 4 cosmic directions. Historic symbols in Chinese culture, they embody the Yin Yang principle that is central to Chinese martial arts, science and medicine.
Since the First Emperor of China (Ch’in Dynasty 221-206BC) proclaimed himself as a descendent of the dragon, the Dragon symbol became associated with royalty and all else held in high regard. As the Emperor was expected to embody the powerful, authoritative, masculine essence of the dragon, the symbol of the phoenix was attributed to his counterpart, the Empress. She was the Yin to his Yang, an embodiment of love, beauty and generosity. Their marital harmony was said to bring peace and prosperity to all.
The metaphors of both Dragon and Phoenix are woven through story after story throughout Chinese culture, both past and present to describe powerful natural energies. As individuals they have shaped the landscape with their bodies, forming mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and bought wisdom to the hearts of mortals. When paired they describe the simultaneous duality and union that exists in relationship and not only those with others. We are likely to encounter balance, imbalance, harmony and opposition in our own physical, mental and emotional self. At times the dragon that keeps us active when we are nearing burnout would best listen to the phoenix, though its song is soft and its nature is to yield. At times the Phoenix, shy flighty thing that it is must be anchored back to the body with practical action.
In TCM the heart is considered the Emperor. It presides over the other organs, regulating their action and subject to the quality of their function. The heart is also the nest of the Shen, or spirit. When the body is well nourished and the heart feels joy the spirit is uplifted and joins with the cosmic forces. So when the Emperor is in balance the gentle Phoenix dances, bestowing to all her gifts of creativity and regeneration.
The Yin Yang concept in image form illustrates the idea that each contains a little of the other, that duality is actually complementary and gives rise to a dynamic Whole, or Oneness which we know as the Tao. There is much in this ancient wisdom for our busy modern lives, and for your Qigong practice too.
When we experience the body as a whole the limbs move as one with the torso, the in and out breath are not in opposition but marriage, the mind is with nature and we are no longer a part from heaven and earth but a conduit between them. In Qigong, as in Nature, where each is prepared to meet the other, harmony is found. And in the moment where one becomes the other, where neither knows which it is, well this is the state of union. In that moment the Dragon soars, the Phoenix dances and we are free.
1. Merritt, Dr Christine, ‘Dragons and Phoenixes: The Changing Face of China’, E-Leader Berlin 2012, retrieved Nov. 5 2017: https://www.g-casa.com/conferences/berlin/papers/Merritt.pdf
2. ‘The Dragon and the Phoenix’, Ecumenical Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism Blog, 18 Oct. 2010, ret 3 Nov 2017: http://ecumenicalbuddhism.blogspot.com.au/2010/10/dragon-and-phoenix.html
3. ‘The Dragon and the Phoenix in Chinese Art’, National Palace Museum, archives, author name not listed,: www.npm.gov.tw/exhbition/dro0001/english/c1main.htm