H- (phoenix) and Paulownia

On this futon cover the trademark long tail feathers of immortal h- birds form a roundel as they fly through auspicious clouds. Ancient Chinese legends held that h- birds (translated as phoenixes) appeared exclusively during the reign of a wise ruler. The only tree on which they would land was the paulownia (kiri). Paulownia are usually portrayed with branching flowers over three leaves, as on this futon cover. H- became symbols of virtue and peace in Japan and eventually became common on bridal textiles. The S-shaped forms on the futon cover are highly stylized renditions of the character for the number one in a script used for names on seal stamps.

Copyright 2006 Jeffrey Krauss and Ann Marie Moeller