Both the cock and hen pheasant play important parts in Far Eastern mythology. Its call and display make the cock a symbol of cosmic harmony, a prefiguration of the coming of Yu the Great, regulator of the world. The call of the hen to the cock is related to thunder. Ch’en, thunder, Spring, cosmic disturbance and conception, also describes the beating of a pheasant’s wings. It is a sign of the awakening of the yang. With the round of the seasons’ rhythm the pheasant transforms itself into the serpent and vice versa, the pheasant being yang and the serpent yin, since this is the rhythm of universal alternation. This, too, is doubtless the reason for the roofs of pagodas being curved like flying pheasants’ wings.
The call of the hen pheasant is also used in Shinto mythology. The bird was the emissary of Amaterasu-omikami to the kami (divinity) who regulated the world, Ame-wakahiko. The latter had abandoned himself to earthly pleasures and cut his links with Heaven. The sinful kami and his companions regarded the hen pheasant’s call as an ill omen. For all that, the call was still a summons and, as it were, a shaft of primeval sunlight, a symbol of colour, light and order.
On the other hand Chuang Tzu makes the marsh pheasant a symbol of a careworn, toilsome existence, but one unhampered nonetheless. Throughout, the bird was regarded as a manifestation of solar power.