Suzaku (the Vermilion Bird) (朱雀)
Suzaku (also known as Shujaku, or in Pinyin) is one of the legendary divine beasts (God Bird) of the People's Republic of China, and is one of the four gods (also known as the Four Beasts or the Four Phenomena) who rule over the four directions; it is also important in the Five Elements Theory. It protects against threats from the south. It appears in the shape of a firebird with wings spread. The "Su" from Suzaku means "vermilion" (that is, red), and the color of the southern direction in the Five Elements Theory. It is considered to be of the same thing as the firebird and the phoenix, and some have pointed out the similarities between Suzaku and Garuda, a bird-god who appears in Indian legends.
Because of the above-mentioned reasons, Suzaku also appears from time to time in the origin stories of temples and shrines, as well as in the private (non-official) era names listed in the topographies and so forth. Such private, unofficial era names are also called itsunengo, and refer to any era names that do not appear in the Nihon shoki.
In the prevailing view, "Suzaku" is thought to be a pseudonym or eulogistic name for Shucho (This theory has been proposed by the historian Taro SAKAMOTO among others.)
In its winter entry for the tenth month of 724, the "Shoku nihongi" includes the following description. "Beginning in the Hakuho ("white firebird" era) and continuing up until the Suzaku (vermilion bird era), the age was shrouded in darkness and distance, and it was very difficult to clarify our questioning."
The Suzaku constellation
The 28 constellations of Chinese astrology (in which the moon's apparent path across the sky is split into 28 sections) are divided into 4 groups of 7 constellations, 1 group for each of the 4 directional gods, and each group was thought to model the appearance of its god.
Among the seven constellations grouped into the south, Suzaku's domain, the central constellation, called the 'Star' is the heart of the Hydra constellation in Western astronomy; its central star is the principal star in the Hydra constellation, Alphard. This second-magnitude star, whose name means 'the solitary one,' is in an area with few bright stars and thus seems to stand out; as can be inferred from their naming this as 'Star' constellation, Chinese astronomers have known of this star since very ancient times, and indeed Alphard is one of the first stars to have been discovered by the Chinese.
This orange colored star, in addition to creating an image of the Ptarmigan or any other birds whose feathers are orange around the breast, may also have possibly influenced the establishment of the image of this auspicious bird 'Suzaku.'
Furthermore, the "Wings Manison," also in Suzaku's southerly group, represents Suzaku's wings.