New archaeological discoveries show that the worship of the phoenix by ancient Chinese can be dated back as early as 7,400 years ago in central China.
A large amount of pottery, decorated with the patterns of beasts, the sun and birds have been excavated at the Gaomiao relics site in Hongjiang, Huaihua City of central China's Hunan Province, according to a report by the Guangming Daily.
"The patterns of birds should be the phoenix worshipped by ancient Chinese," said He Gang, a researcher with the Hunan Institute of Archaeology.
The worship of the phoenix, an imaginary totem like the dragon, originated in ancient people's praying for sunshine, rain and harvest, said He.
The phoenix patterns at the Gaomiao ruins were some 400 years older than the phoenix patterns on ivory objects, unearthed from the 7,000-year-old Hemudu Neolithic site in east China's Zhejiang Province.
Archaeologists said they have found a sacrificial altar, the earliest sacrificial site in China, at the Gaomiao site, covering an area of 1,000 square meters.
The bones of dozens of animals including deer, pigs, cattle, bears, elephants and rhinoceros have been excavated from the 39 sacrificial pits at the site.
"The discovery of the altar and phoenix patterns are of great importance to research into the origin of religion and ancient civilization," said He.