In ancient Chinese mythology, Jīn Wū (金乌) is a sunbird that symbolizes the sun and appears in various ancient texts such as the Shan Hai Jing (山海经) and the Huai Nan Zi (淮南子). According to these texts, Jīn Wū is one of the ten suns born to Emperor Jun (帝俊) and Xihe (羲和), possessing both human and divine features. It is depicted as a three-legged bird that can fly and is known as the solar deity of the sky.
The Shan Hai Jing describes the birth of Jīn Wū, stating that it was born to Xihe, wife of Emperor Jun. The Haiwai Dong Jing (海外东经) mentions that Jīn Wū takes a bath on the sun tree on Mount Tanggu (汤谷), residing in the water with a large tree. It also states that Jīn Wū lands on the top branch of the tree during the day and the bottom branch during the night. The Da Huang Dong Jing (大荒东经) describes Jīn Wū carrying the sun on its back, traveling from east to west every day, and landing on the branches of the tree.
The Huai Nan Zi also mentions that “there is a three-legged bird in the middle of the sun,” which is interpreted by Guo Pu as a description of the sun deity as Jīn Wū. The ancient legend describes Jīn Wū rising from the east on the branches of the sun tree and flying across the sky, bringing light and warmth to the world. As the day comes to an end, Jīn Wū would return to the sun tree, symbolizing the sunset.
The myth of Jīn Wū is an essential part of Chinese traditional culture, embodying the observations and emotions of ancient people towards the phenomenon of sunrise and sunset. The legendary bird is a symbol of hope, courage, and strength, inspiring generations of Chinese people.