Gumyōchō2017 by Matthew Meyer

共命鳥

The gumyōchō is a beautiful two-headed bird that resembles a pheasant. Occasionally it is depicted as having two human heads instead of two bird heads. Their home is Gokuraku jōdo, the realm of utter paradise created by Amida Buddha.

The gumyōchō is one of six bird species which are said to inhabit nirvana—the others being white swans, peafowl, parrots, mynah birds, and karyōbinga. Like the karyōbinga, the gumyōchō is said to have an exceedingly beautiful voice. It and the other heavenly birds sing the holy scriptures in nirvana, and those who listen to their songs can achieve enlightenment.

Gumyōchō originate in the cosmology of Pure Land Buddhism. They were brought to Japan in the sixth century along with Buddhism. They are often used as ornamentation on Buddhist temples. Their story is a parable for the interdependence of all humans on one another.
Click to select the cover image for this artwork.