Legend of the White Phoenix

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Article originally published November 2012

The Chinese phoenix/feng huang (鳳凰) is a symbol of joy and peace believed to appear only during times of harmony and prosperity. She represents the power sent from the heavens to the Empress and favors leaders who are just and without corruption. If a phoenix is used to decorate a house, it signifies that the people who live there are loyal and honest. She is the Yin equivalent of the dragon and is often depicted together with the dragon to symbolize the happy, harmonious union of Yin and Yang. She is one of the four central Chinese mythical creatures.

Silkie Chicken

The phoenix also represents regeneration and immortality. It is said that the Immortals would eat the eggs of the phoenix to attain longevity and everlasting life. In Chinese folklore, there is a story that the celestial, Lu Dongbing, made pills of immortality on Tiger-nose Peak in the 9th century. On the day when the pills of immortality were successfully made, Lu Dongbing invited other celestial beings to the celebration party. While the celestial beings were drinking wine, a pair of wild chickens flew from the forest into the pill-making pool and ate the pills of immortality. The chickens then became a pair of white phoenix. Lu Dongbing was displeased by this and reported it to the Bodhisattva Guanyin, but she smiled and said: “It’s a good opportunity for them to live on earth.” The Bodhisattva then pointed at Tiger-nose Peak, and the white phoenix immediately transformed into a pair of silky black chickens.

Black Chicken - The Silkie Bantam

The silkie black chicken of this legend is particularly associated with black chicken/Wu ji, known in the West as the Silkie Bantam. In the West it was given the name “silkie” because of the soft appearance of its feathers. This species of chicken has black colored bones, dark flesh, and black skin. Black chickens can have feathers in a variety of colors, but the ones with white feathers are preferred in Chinese culinary and medicinal traditions. This is probably due in part to legend, as well as Chinese mythology, where the phoenix is traditionally believed to have white feathers.

Wu ji/Black Chicken Properties

For practitioners of Chinese medicine, the black interior and paradoxical white feathered exterior possess further meaning. They represent and mirror the consolidation of Yin and Yang. Thus, black chicken is considered especially valuable medicinally and nutritionally. In Chinese dietary therapy all black foods are considered to be very helpful for treating Kidney disharmonies and the Blood, because black is the color associated with water and with the Kidneys in the five phases/ wu xing.

According to western nutrition theory the black color in both animal and plant foods (such as black beans and blackberries) is thought to come from a group of antioxidants called anthocyanins. These flavonoids are thought to have positive influences on a variety of health conditions and to have a wide range of biological activities.

Black chicken is used in China both as a food and medicine for nourishing the Yin and the Blood. Its taste is sweet and its temperature is neutral. The channels it enters are Liver, Kidney and Lung. Its functions are:

  • Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys
  • Invigorates and Replenishes the Qi and Blood
  • Nourishes Yin and Reduce Deficiency Heat
  • Benefits the Spleen
  • Strengthens Tendons and Bones

White Phoenix

Many practitioners also use black chicken in both dietary and medicinal therapies to nourish Jing.

Wu Ji Bai Feng Wan: White Phoenix Teapills

Viewed as a whole, Wu Ji Bai Feng Wan’s functions are:

  • Nourishes Blood and Tonifies Qi
  • Strengthens Kidneys
  • Nourishes and Stabilizes Jing-essence
  • Regulates menstruation and the Chong and Ren
  • Moves Qi and Invigorates Blood

Wu Ji Bai Feng Wan is widely considered to be a well-balanced formula that is able to strongly supplement the body (Qi, Blood and Yin) without causing stagnation, as well as warm the Yang without producing dryness3. It is very popular in China and is customarily taken by women following menstruation to rebuild Blood and Qi, and to keep the skin healthy and supple by nourishing the Blood4. Almost one third of the formula is made up of thick, nourishing substances (Wu ji, Lu jiao jiao, Lu jiao shuang, Bie jia) that can deeply tonify Yin, Blood and Jing while supporting the Yang. In the TCM herbal realm Wu Ji Bai Feng Wan holds a secure place among the Fu Ke formulas for addressing a wide variety of women’s health issues.

Wu ji is the chief ingredient and monarch of this highly nourishing formula. Although the formula contains twenty ingredients, because of its unique nurturing abilities, Wu ji comprises the first 25% of the formula. It is combined with a many Blood and Kidney tonics to augment and complement its potency.

Individual Formula Constituents

Herb % of Formula Formula Function
Wu ji/Gallus gallus domesticus 25.07% Monarch- Chief Ingredient
Sheng di huang/Rehmannia glutinosa root- raw 10.03% Assists Wu ji in nourishing Yin, reducing deficiency heat and generating fluids.
Shu di huang/Rehmannia glutinosa root- prepared 10.03% Supports Wu ji in nourishing Blood, tonifying the Liver and Kidneys, replenishing Jing and building marrow.
Dang gui/Angelica sinensis root 5.67% Dang gui is an essential component used in nearly all Fu ke formulations. Here it works together with Wu ji and Shu di huang to nourish Blood and aids Wu ji in invigorating Qi and Blood.
Bai shao/Paeonia lactiflora root 5.01% Together with Wu ji, Shu di & Dang gui, Bai shao provides nourishment to the Blood. It also supports the preservation of Yin, and aids the Liver by relaxing and softening the Liver, and calming Liver wind. Together with Shu di and Dang gui, Bai shao is one of the four constituents of the famed Si Wu Tang/Four Substances which contains these three renowned Blood tonics plus Chuan xiong which is also in this.
Dan shen/Salvia miltiorrhiza root 5.01% Along with Wu ji, Dan Shen both invigorates and nourishes the Blood. It works with Sheng di to cool the Blood and also calms the Shen.
Lu jiao jiao/Cervus nippon antler gelatin 5.01% Though just over 5% of the formula, Lu jiao jiao forges an important path within this preparation. Lu jiao jiao, along with Lu jiao shuang (also in this formula) tonifies the Kidney Yang and Jing. The addition of these substances makes the avenues of tonification within this formula broad based and comprehensive. With Wu ji and Shu di, Lu jiao jiao supports the Liver and Kidneys, and aids in the transformation of Gu Qi into Blood.
Xiang fu (cu zhi)/Cyperus rotundus rhizome 5.01% Together with Wu ji, Xiang fu promotes the movement and regulation of Qi. Xiang fu, is well-known for its place in Fu ke formulations because in addition to regulating Qi it regulates Blood.
Shan yao /Dioscorea opposita rhizome 5.01% Like Ren shen, Shan yao tonifies Qi. It nourishes Spleen Qi and Stomach Yin, as well as Lung Qi and Yin. Together with Shu di huang, Shan yao tonifies Kidney Yin.
Bie jia (cu zhi)/Trionyx sinensis shell- vinegar prepared 2.51% Bie jia is an important substance to nourish Yin and anchor the Yang when Liver Wind presents. Bie jia also addresses Yin deficient heat and steaming bone syndrome. It softens hardness and is applicable for manifestations of Blood stagnation with “substance”.
Tian men dong/Asparagus cochinchinensis tuber 2.51% A Yin tonic, Tian men dong clears Lung heat, sedates fire and moistens dryness. With Bie jia it addresses deficiency heat and steaming bone syndrome.
Chuan xiong /Ligusticum chuanxiong (wallichii) rhizome 2.51% Chuan xiong, one of the mainstays of “Four Substances” in Si Wu Tang is used for Fu ke and Blood deficiency patterns. It activates Qi and Blood circulation, and together with Xiang fu and Dang gui is one of the preeminent and most frequently used herbs found in women’s health formulas.
Qian shi (chao)/Euryale ferox seed 2.51% Qian shi an astringent herb which tonifies the Spleen and dispels some dampness. It adds to the effects of Ren shen and Huang qi in this formula to bolster the Qi. Qian shi also consolidates Jing along with Sang piao xiao, Lu jiao jiao and Lu jiao shuang.
Sang piao xiao /Tenodera sinensis egg case 1.86% Sang piao xiao serves to both tonify Kidney Yang and consolidate the Jing. Its is assisted by Qian shi, Lu jiao jiao and Lu jiao shuang.
Mu li (duan) /Ostrea gigas shell- toasted 1.86% Together with Bai shao, Mu li calms the Liver and anchors the Yang. With Dan shen it calms the Shen. With Qian shi and Sang piao xiao it prevents leakage of fluids.
Li jiao shuang/Cervus nippon antler gelatin- degelatinized 1.86% Though only a minor ingredient in this formula Lu jiao shuang iremains an important support herb. It is derived from the dregs left after Lu jiao jiao is processed. Like Lu jiao jiao, it has Yang tonifying properties although the functions are weaker. In particular it is noted as having a special affinity for nourishing Blood in the Chong and Ren, an important aspect of this formula overall; and like the herbs listed above, it also has some astringent qualities.
Huang qi/Astragalus membranaceus root 1.25% Though Huang qi is prized for a wide array of uses, here it works synergistically with Dang gui and the other constituents of Si Wu Tang to support tonification of Qi and generation of Blood.
Gan cao/Glycyrrhiza uralensis root 1.25% Gan cao supports tonification of the Spleen, benefits the Qi, and very importantly, harmonizes the other herbs within the formula.
Yin chai hu/Stellaria dichotoma root 1.02% Yin chai hu clears deficiency heat and is known for its capacity to clear heat without damaging the Yin. With Sheng di huang, Bie jia and Dan shen it balances Yin and addresses, yin deficient heat and steaming bone syndrome.


  • Haas, MD, Elson M., Levin, PhD, RD, Buck Staying Healthy with Nutrition, Celestial Arts: 2006.
  • Xiao-hung, Ying et. al., Chinese Materia Medica, Shanghai Scientific & Technical Publishers: 1999.
  • Naeser PhD, Margaret A. Outline Guide to Chinese Patent Medicines in Pill Form, Boston Chinese Medicine: 1993.
  • Maclean, Will & Taylor, Kathryn. The Clinical Manual of Chinese Herbal Patent Medicines, Pangolin Press: 2003
  • Chen, J. & Chen, T., Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, Art of Medicine Press: 2004.

Alisa Wrinkle, L.Ac. was an herbal consultant with Mayway for 15 years. In the course of her tenure at Mayway she contributed to a wide range of projects including teaching, writing and marketing. She assisted practitioners from around the country with herbal concerns and advised on product selection. Alisa is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist specializing in pain management, women’s health, and immunity. She has been practicing TCM in Oakland, CA. since 1997.

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