14. Birds and dragons

Although we encountered a Houou Bird in earlier discussions, this next vase is the first that is firmly in the common style of what we will call here “bird and dragon”. That is, it has alternating panels with representations of a houou bird and then a dragon.

Often they are referred to as “dragon and phoenix” vases. The Japanese houou bird has little connection to the Western phoenix, but it is a useful shorthand. Here are the three images on this vase.

Once again we can see a tremendous variation in the fine detail, while the overall feeling of each image is the same. Looking at the images in more detail the variation is more evident.

Did the person who did the wiring work intend all three birds to have different personalities? It would be nice to think so. The dragons also differ in subtle ways, but it is harder to spot their moods.

The houou bird appears once again in the repeated ’roundel’ pattern around the upper part of the vase. This time however the expression is more neutral.

Overall this is an attractive vase that succeeds in presenting the auspicious symbols of the dragon and phoenix in an interesting way, with lots of colour and variety.

Object 14. Vase height 24.4 cm weight 392 gm.

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