The Vanishing Golden Phoenix

In the time of Emperor Xuan of Han, a black-covered carriage with a phoenix design was bestowed upon the Grand General Huo Guang, complete with golden fittings. One night, the golden phoenix on the carriage’s shafts would often fly away, its whereabouts unknown, only to return at dawn. This occurrence was not a singular event, as the carriage attendants had also witnessed it. Later, a nobleman from NanJun named Huang Junzhong captured a wild phoenix on North Mountain. Upon seizing it, the phoenix instantly transformed into purple gold, with feathers, crown, and wings fully formed, measuring more than a foot long. The carriage attendants reported, “On the twelfth night of this month, the phoenix on the carriage shafts always flies away, returning at dawn. But now, it has not returned, and we fear it may have been captured by someone.” Huo Guang found this extremely unusual and reported it with a detailed account.

Several days later, Junzhong presented the phoenix offspring at the imperial court, saying, “On the twelfth night of this month, this phoenix was obtained on North Mountain.” The Emperor, hearing this, was skeptical and placed it on a crystal tray. Shortly thereafter, it flew away. The Emperor ordered a search, and it went straight to Huo Guang’s residence, stopping on the carriage shafts, confirming the truth of the matter. The Emperor took possession of the carriage and used it on his excursions. However, when the Emperor passed away, the phoenix flew away again, and its whereabouts remained unknown. As the poet Ji Kang wrote, “Graceful and elegant on the carriage shafts, it falls into this net of intrigue.”

Original story in 《齊諧記》:


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