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Song of the Flaming Phoenix 火凤凰的笙音

a Symphonic Poem for Sheng and Large Orchestra (2020-21)


The mythical birds and their songs in this work explained below in relation to the actual birdsongs heard and adopted from the Southern regions in North America:


quoted texts from "Fantastic Creatures of the Mountains and Seas: a Chinese Classic" by Jiankun Sun, translated by Howard Goldblatt)


颙 Yu


Carolina Chickadee


The facial beauty of the ancient Yu belied the savage nature of an avian hybrid that terrorized the air above the barren Lingqiu shan...Unquenchable fire made the mountain inhospitable for land dwellers. Two sets of eyes and human ears drew the gaze away from three menacing feet with razor-sharp claws. Whenever it appeared in the sky with its distinctive yu yu yu call, droughts were sure to follow.




Carolina Wren


In the skies above Ji Shan's crags and precipices, over which the Boyi roamed, a peculiar bird called the Changfu released three-note screeches as it hurtled through the air. The odd avian resembled a chicken, but one with three heads, three pairs of legs, and three wings. Unlike a bird's, its single tail curved, functioning as a counterbalance to its forward-leaning body. It could eliminate the desire and the need to sleep.

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蠻蠻 Manman

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

“崇吾之山 ,有鳥焉,其狀如鳧,而一翼一目,相得乃飛,名曰蠻蠻,見則天下大水。”

It is a shared-wing bird, a Biyi, which had one eye and one wing. Only when two of the birds came together could they fly. When it appears, there will be flood.


鸾鸟 Laun

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Tufted Titmouse


The provocatively named Nüchuang-Woman's Bed-shan once stood somewhere south of Shannxi Province's Longxian, its dense forests home to a fabulous phoenix-related bird known as the Luan. Resembling a pheasant but with dazzling magenta-tipped feathers, its most notable feature appears to have been its voice, which produced a crisp sound like the peal of a struck bell, but modulated in the five ancient musical tones. Everything about the Luan proclaimed propitious tidings and, like the phoenix, brought peace and goodwill wherever its flight took it.


鸰䳩 Lingyao


Northern Cardinal


Summer Tanager


A mere twenty Li west of Pingfeng shan stood Guishan, a jade-rich mountain on which an unusual bird, the Lingyao, lived. Resembling a pheasant of modern times, it had a long, sinuous, almost prehensile tail, a body as red as a fall maple leaf, and a green beak, the contrast making it one of the loveliest birds of its day. Its unique call-lingyao, lingyao-is how it got its name. Its edible meat was an effective inhibitor of nightmares, keeping evil and demonic spirits-which, in the eyes of the ancients, were largely the cause of bad dreams-at bay.

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鵸鵌 Qiyu

Northern Mockingbird

Red-breasted Nuthatch


It has three heads and six tails. Like the phoenix, they were both male and female entities, and could fight the attack by evils. It‘s call resembles human's laughs.


鴖 Min


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


Fuyu shan was also the nesting place for a marvelous bird known as the Min. Its red beak and clusters of red feathers on the tip of its tail were all that distinguished it from the common kingfisher. Its call, either in the wild or in cages, has never been described, though unlike the thin whistle of a kingfisher, it was likely something louder and more urgent to warn of fire.

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