Arts and Culture
This paper focuses on a type of bird motif that features a fusiform head (one side is a beak; the other is a feather on the back of the head), a cloud-shaped crown on the head, a long neck, two wings, two legs, and a long tail. This bird motif was common on gold and silver wares from the 8th to 12th century. Modern scholars have acknowledged its prevalence and refer to the birds as phoenixes. Many researchers note that between the 10th and 12th centuries the phoenix was even more common than dragon motifs on the Eurasian Steppe. Despite its prominence, this motif has yet to be researched in a comprehensive manner. Moreover, most research that has studied the mythic bird motif has focused only on its appearance on precious metal wares and accessories even though it also commonly appeared in many other media, such as ceramics, textiles, and mural paintings. This research examines the important motif across the media—not just in silver and gold—and explores how it was formulated, transmitted, and hybridised across the Eurasia Steppe. This paper also investigates how phoenix-type motifs combined with other motifs, such as foliage scrolls and dragons, and explores whether the phoenix held different meanings in different contexts. By investigating how the motif was transmitted and hybridised, this research contributes to an understanding of how cultures generate new forms and forge new connections with one another.