Is this is the bird Ed #Snowden dreams of?

A Fenghuang on the roof of Longshan Temple in Taipei

A Fenghuang on the roof of Longshan Temple in Taipei

Edward Snowden sounded upbeat, cocky even, in his live, two-hours-and-forty-three-minute online chat via The Guardian website. And he clearly knows a thing or two about mythical birds. Especially those in China.

Ask yourself, he urged a doubting questioner, “if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.”

He created a telling image, one that might symbolise the ultimate dream. Especially for Americans, who are in thrall to the American cycle – life, death, rebirth, phoenix rising from the ashes.

But for anyone who wonders why Mr Snowden mentioned a phoenix in the context of China, the mythological symbol of regeneration exists in many cultures. In China, it is the Fenghuang (feng being the male and huang, the female). The phoenix also pops up in other long-lived cultures, not least Hinduism’s garuda, Persia’s anka, Russia’s firebird and Japan’s ho-o.