February 4, 2017 is Li Chun, the first day of the lunar calendar in the Year of the Fire Rooster, and there is no better time to tell the story of the origin of the Feng Shui amulet, “Rooster King Protecting (Your) Home” (Ji Wang Zhen Zhai雞王鎮宅).
The Rooster King is one of the oldest lucky mascot in Chinese history. During the time of the lunar new year, the traditional Chinese would print Nian-Hua (年畫), or “year-picture”, of color wood-block prints of a pair of Rooster King and pasted them on their door as a yearly protection for their home.
What Brought About the Rooster King?
The story of the Rooster King was first recorded in a book on early legendary Chinese history called “Shi Yi Ji” 《拾遺記》. The book is often translated into English as “Researches Into Lost Records” or “Forgotten Tales” by the Jin Dynasty Taoist scholar Wang Jia 王嘉 (died 390).
Wang wrote that during the Reign of Emperor Yao (a legendary Chinese ruler who reigned between c. 2356 – 2255 BC), the population experienced good peace and prosperity. However, from time to time, veracious beasts like man-eating tigers would appear from the mountains and bewitching ghosts and spirits would haunt the forests. People saw them as a scourge were frightened. In turn, they would make a petition to the emperor to get rid of them.
One day a vessel state came to pay tribute to Emperor Yao and gave him a strange looking bird with a twin-set of eyes. This magical bird was called a “Chong-Ming Niao” 重明鳥, or an “Extremely Enlightened Bird”. It looked like an ordinary rooster but it crows like a phoenix and eats cream made out of jade for food.
What Makes Rooster King Special?
What is so special about this bird is that it can chase away the menacing beasts and fight the evil spirits with magic to protect the populace. That’s when people started to put out food and wine at their front doors, hoping that the Chong-Ming Bird would come into their home and do exorcism for them.
But the Chong-Ming Bird doesn’t appear often. It only appears a couple of times a year and sometimes people don’t see it for a number of years.
Out of anxiety, people started to make a replica of this magical bird out of wood and put it at their front door or on their roof. They would also turn the wooden replica into an amulet, and they called this amulet the Rooster King.
Still later they would make wooden block prints as year-pictures for protection. For those that are more well-off, they would make it out of metal, stone, or ceramic.
What is the Rooster King Used For?
When the Rooster King is used as an amulet to protect a home, it is often made standing on a piece of rock to represent the foundation of a house with its head held high and crowing. It also carries a string of coins to represent a bringer of wealth as well as a protector of your home.
Further, since the Chinese character for a rooster is called “Ji” and it has the same sound as “auspicious”, a pair of roosters is often exchanged in a wedding ceremony as an exchange of good fortune. This ancient custom is still in practice today.