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Forbidden City
West Gate of Righteousness 右义门

The man riding a chicken is the standard figure at the lead of the procession of roof figures on the roof-ridges of the buildings at the Forbidden City. Here, he is shown on the roof of the West Gate of Righteousness 右义门 (Yòu Yì Mén). There are several stories about him. One is that he is an emperor riding a chicken to remind the emperor that he must serve the people with humility and truthfulness. Another is that he is a functionary of the imperial court and he is followed by the mythical beasts that will devour him if he strays from his duty to serve both the emperor and the people. Yet another story is that the man was a figure from history who was being attacked. He was cornered in his house, and when the enemy attacked, he fled to the roof to hide. He was stuck. The enemy had occupied the town and his house. He couldn't stay on the roof forever. Suddenly a chicken (or phoenix, depending on the teller) flew up and landed at his side. He mounted the bird and flew off to safety. Most Chinese language web sites and reference books use the word (jī) which is "chicken" to describe the bird. Some web sites use the word phoenix, or (fèng) . The phoenix is the second in the line of beasts after the dragon.

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Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009