Edo period Japanese Phoenix / Hou birds kozuka, phoenix are in high relief with shakudo and gold set in a very fine nanako ground.
95mm x 14mm
In Japan, as earlier in China, the mythical Phoenix was adopted as a symbol of the Imperial household, particularily the empress. This mythical bird represents fire, the sun, justice, obedience, fidelity, According to legend (mostly from China), the Hō-ō appears very rarely, and only to mark the beginning of a new era — the birth of a virtuous ruler, for example. In other traditions, the Hō-ō appears only in peaceful and prosperous times (nesting, it is said, in paulownia trees), and hides itself when there is trouble. As the herald of a new age, the Hō-ō decends from heaven to earth to do good deeds, and then it returns to its celestial abode to await a new era. It is both a symbol of peace (when the bird appears) and a symbol of disharmony (when the bird disappears). In China, early artifacts show the Phoenix (female) as intimately associated with the dragon (male) — the two are portrayed either as mortal enemies or as blissful lovers.