A. HISTORY OF PHOENIX WAREThe most common pattern is the one I first learned about -- Phoenix Bird. The first pieces of Phoenix Bird were imported from Japan in the 1890's. Most of this Japanese phoenix ware was imported into the United States from 1920 - 1940's, though some was also sent to Europe. It was marked "Nippon". By the end of World War II until the end of American occupation of Japan in 1954, many pieces were labeled "Made in Occupied Japan".
Much of the early imports were handled by Woolworth's, but could also be purchased directly from catalogs in New York. The items ordered from the catalogs were usually shipped out of Japan by the Morimura brothers and carried their trademark. Their phoenix ware was usually referred to as "Blue Howo". Many other countries also produced their own versions of Phoenix Ware, just as they did for the Blue Willow pattern. One example, Satsuma, produced by Myott, Son and Company was made in England. Satsuma ware lacked the deep blue color of the Japanese originals.
Another example of a Phoenix ware copy came from Takahashia Imports out of California during the 1960's. They called their porcelain "Phnx" and it is popular with many collectors who call it the "T-Bird" pattern.
B. VARIOUS PATTERNS OF PHOENIX WARESeveral different versions of Phoenix Ware were produced in Japan as well as in Europe and continue to be produced. Many of the Japanese potteries were destroyed during World War II, so it is difficult to be accurate about which patterns started where; and there are many versions of the basic patterns. The earlier versions had more of a grayish tint to the background, while more recent versions tend to have a milky-white background.
The commonly recognized pattern known as Phoenix Ware has been described as: containing a "true" Phoenix Bird with the body of the phoenix facing forward and the head facing backward over its wings. There were at least four (but no more than seven) spots on his chest, and his wings spread up and out. Borders varied, but most had a cloud and mountain border. Most pieces were made with transfer print.
These are the best known pattern variations of Phoenix Ware:
- Flying Turkey or Blue Phoenix
- Twin Phoenix
- Flying Dragon
2. Flying Turkey / Blue Phoenix:
NOTE: Recently a seller on eBay contacted me concerning a set of three-legged sauce bowls that had a slightly different flying phoenix pattern. (See picture below.) After some research, I sent the following information to the seller:
your pattern is looking forward and attacking. I think it might
be a type of Chinese phoenix (rather than a Japanese phoenix)
known as Fenghuang (males = feng, females = huang).
It is also called the "August Rooster" and yours looks more like a
chicken or rooster. It is sometimes depicted with three legs!! It is
usually shown attacking snakes with its talons and wings spread
as yours is shown. Fun.
3. Twin Phoenix:
4. Flying Dragon:
3. SYMBOLISM OF THE PHOENIX
The Phoenix has been an historically important symbol in both Chinese and Japanese cultures. Traditionally in China, it represented the cardinal direction South from which the warm summer sun shone and was used by the empress as her personal talisman. A far more important symbol in China was the dragon. The Dragon symbol in Chinese tradition has long represented the waters to the east of China. From that direction came gentle spring rains or raging storms. It became the emblem of the emperor and can be seen in many architectural features of the Forbidden City in Beijing. A tiger was used to represent the west since tigers often came down out of the mountains located in western China. A turtle was the Chinese symbol for the north and interestingly, the turtle is often depicted fighting a serpent which represented enemies to the north of China's borders!! Japan adapted much Chinese symbolism into its own culture and modified it to fit their own needs.
The Phoenix in Japan (known as HOWO) appears to be a combination of pheasant and peacock. It is a rare bird that only makes its appearance on earth when spectacular events or a new age of peace and splendor is about to begin.
The phoenix is normally shown with its wings spread out as it attacks a serpent with its claws. Borders on the porcelain vary but often contain stylized mountains and clouds known as the Noritake pattern.
For more in-depth information about this symbol of the Phoenix go to http://www.150.si.edu/siarch/guide/japart.htm
The Dragon symbol in Chinese tradition has long represented the waters to the east of China. From that direction came gentle spring rains or raging storms. It became the emblem of the emperor. Japan adapted much Chinese symbolism into its own culture.