Hou-ou were introduced from China to Japan in the Asuka period (between the 6th and 7th centuries CE). Hou-ou are a composite animal containing a variety of elements which varied as it was adapted by the Japanese, but often include the neck of a snake and the tail of a peacock or pheasant.
Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
Hou-ou are not associated with any one season due to their auspicious and mythological status. Hou-ou mon are associated with the imperial house. Mon containing hou-ou, kiri, and take together are reserved for the emperor, mon containing only hou-ou are often associated with the empress.
Common Motif Pairings
Hou-ou only appear in times of peace and prosperity or to mark the birth of a new leader or era. Its composite nature includes both male and female attributes and so is considered auspicious for weddings, where male and female are united.
Detail of hou-ou on maru obi from the collection of Kokoro.
Motif in Literature & Other Usage
One of the most famous architectural depictions of hou-ou are the statues on the roof of the Phoenix Hall (鳳凰堂) at the Buddhist temple, Byōdō-in (平等院), in Kyoto. Fujiwara no Yorimichi had the Phoenix Hall built in 1053 to convert the earlier villa on the site into a Buddhist temple. The Phoenix Hall itself is commemorated on the back of the 10 yen coin and a depiction of the hou-ou on the roof decorates the back of the 10000 yen note.
Relevant Threads / Discussions
- Link to any relevant threads on IG
- JAANUS Article on Hou-ou. Accessed March 11, 2013.
Authors & Contributors
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