- 1 Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
- 2 Motif Examples
- 3 Motif in Literature & Other Usage
- 4 Article Notes
Kiji refers to the Japanese Green Pheasant (Phasianus versicolor), a bird endemic to Japan. Kiji live in the area between forests and open meadows, they especially like the edges of cultivated fields.
During the breeding season, from April to June, the males may be observed courting females. Females will lay 6-15 eggs and attempt to rear as many as possible to maturity. Males do not help rear the young, instead molting in July through August and becoming extremely secretive. Males "reappear" in the fall in time for the hunting season.
Kiji are not a threatened species, and may be hunted with a license, but it is illegal to kill females.
Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
Kiji are strongly associated with spring, their breeding season, and with autumn, their hunting season.
Motif Connotations & Symbolism
Kiji are a popular symbol for maternal devotion. According to Japanese folklore, the kiji will shield her nest and chicks with her wings even in a burning field. It is also known as the messenger of goddess Amaterasu.
Kiji are auspicious symbols for mothers and as such are often found on kurotomesode intended for weddings.
During the Asuka period, Emperor Kōtoku was presented with a white pheasant from Mount Onoyama. The bird was interpreted as an auspicious sign of heaven's favor toward the emperor. The bird was placed in a palaquin and paraded before the court officials. Emperor Kōtoku offically changed the era name to Hakuchi (白雉, white pheasant), declared a general amnesty and freed prisoners, and banned hawks from being flown over the province where the pheasant was found.
Common Motif Pairings
Identification & Style Variations
Male kiji may be recognized by their crest and long tails. They may be depicted in their natural colors of green, blue and purple. Females are smaller than the males, but also have long tails. They may be differentiated from ducks by the lack of webbing on their feet and from quail by their less rounded bodies.
Kiji are not to be confused with hou-ou which are pictured as a mythological chimera of several birds. Kiji are depicted in a more realistic fashion: if two are depicted they will often be differentiated as a male and female pair, their colors will be more realistic, and they are often shown walking on the ground, unlike hou-ou which are more often perched on a tree branch with their long peacock like tail trailing downward.
Motif in Literature & Other Usage
Kiji is the unofficial national bird of Japan.
A Japanese proverb is Yakeno no kigisu, yoru no tsuru (焼野の雉子、夜の鶴, lit. A Pheasant in a burning field, the night crane) meaning a mother will risk life and limb for her children.
Referencing kiji's symbolism as a loving parent, Basho wrote on the thirty-third anniversary of his father's death (1688):
|父母の||chichi haha no||The voice of the pheasant|
|しきりに恋し||shikiri ni koishi||how I longed|
|雉の声||kiji no koe||for my dead parents!|
|あしびきの||ashibiki no||The long trail|
|山鳥の尾の||yamadori no o no||of the pheasant's tail|
|しだり尾の||shidari o no||drooping down|
|ながながし夜を||naganagashi yo o||through this long, long dragging night|
|ひとりかもねむ||hitori ka mo nen||must I lie alone?|
Relevant Threads / Discussions
- Atsuharu Sakai. Japan in a Nutshell, Vol. 1. Yamagata Printing Co. Yokohama. 1949. p. 233.
- McIntire, Suzanne. Speeches in World History. Facts on File, New York. 2009. p. 83-4.
- World Kigo Database page on Kiji. Accessed March 16, 2017.
- Text of Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. Accessed March 16, 2017.
Authors & Contributors
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