Information is based on dictionaries and other sources. Pinyin readings reflect standard Mandarin usage; for some dialect alternative names it may be of little practical use, especially for South China. Many Korean glosses are highly tentative. Comments and corrections welcome.
China is extremely rich in phasianids (many of which are endemics), from the grouse, capercaillies, and ptarmigans of the north, to the different varieties of francolin, partridge, tragopan, and pheasant in the centre and south, and the many types of monal, snowcock, and tragopan in the west. The Chinese language is also rich in phasianid names, although the average modern Chinese, especially in the cities, is likely to know only the peacock, the quail, and the common barnyard fowl.
The term most commonly employed in relation to phasianids is 鸡 , which is the common word for 'fowl/chicken'. The name is familiar to all Chinese from the domesticated fowl. In fact, layman are likely to identify most wild phasianids as some kind of 鸡 'fowl/chicken' or 野鸡 'wild fowl/chicken'.
Many relatively familiar phasianids use the form 鸡 'fowl/chicken'. For instance, 竹鸡 'bamboo-fowl/chicken' is used for the Bamboo Partridges and 金鸡 'gold-fowl/chicken' and 铜鸡 'copper-fowl/chicken' are used for the ruffed pheasants (members of Chrysolophus).
Aside from the phasianids, however, the name 鸡 is also used in the naming of numerous types of bird in Chinese, including the lapwings (麦鸡 'grain fowl'), coucals (a common popular name is 毛鸡 'feathered-fowl/chicken'), sandgrouse (沙鸡 'sand-fowl/chicken'), rails (秧鸡 'seedling fowl/chicken'), and crakes (田鸡 'paddyfield fowl/chicken'). It is also used in popular or local names of birds as diverse as the herons, finches, and thrushes.
The ancient name for the pheasant is 雉 , but this name is not found as a single word in modern Chinese, and the Common Pheasant itself is commonly referred to as 雉鸡 'pheasant fowl/chicken'. In colloquial usage, the Pheasant is normally called 野鸡 'wild fowl/chicken', in some areas also as 山鸡 'mountain fowl/chicken'.
The word 雉 is also used in the official Chinese name of the jacanas: 水雉 'water pheasant'.
The quails, known as 鹌鹑 , are a distinctive and familiar member of the phasianids, not least because their eggs are used in cooking. In ancient times 鹌 and 鹑 were supposedly two separate words for unstriped and striped quails respectively. The two were later conjoined to form a single undifferentiated name. Where it is desired to form a compound word relating to quails, 鹑 is used, e.g., 雉鹑 'pheasant-quail'.
Three distinctive phasianids with their own names in Chinese are the Francolin, known as the 鹧鸪 ; the Silver Pheasant, known as the 鹇 or 白鹇 'white silverpheasant'; and the Peafowl, known as the 孔雀 . The latter name contains the form 雀 , which originally appears to have referred to the sparrow but is also used in many other bird names.
In the north, the Grouse and Ptarmigans are called 雷鸟 'thunder-bird'.
The above are the most familiar modern names. In addition, many names occur in ancient literature but have since fallen out of use. Chinese also has a large variety of dialect names for phasianids of varying degrees of familiarity to the general public.
Official phasianid names have undergone considerable regularisation at the hands of ornithological authorities to conform with taxonomic genera. A number of names show signs of having been coined from existing names in the written language, by combining Chinese characters together. These are often modelled on names in English and other languages. Examples include 孔雀雉 'peacock-pheasant', 雉鹑 'pheasant-quail', etc.
The correspondence between genera and names is shown in the table below:
|Francolinus||鹧鸪||'francolin'; partridges in general||By itself refers to the Chinese Francolin; has been extended to Arborophila in the general meaning 'partridge'.|
|Coturnix||鹌鹑||'quail'||The genus Excalfactoria is distinguished by using only 鹑 in the species name.|
|Ornithologically, 环颈雉 'ring-necked pheasant' is more common.|
|Chrysolophus||锦鸡||'brocade fowl/chicken'||Traditional names 金鸡 'gold fowl/chicken' and 铜鸡 'copper fowl/chicken' have been phased out in recent lists.|
Although the ornithological names in Chinese and Japanese largely have common roots due to Japanese borrowing from Chinese, the differing patterns of regularisation have resulted in a gap between Chinese and Japanese usage. In the following cases, the gap in usage of the same names is quite considerable:
|Chinese word||Japanese word|
|Name||鹧鸪||シャコ (鷓鴣) shako|
|Genera covered||Francolinus, Arborophila||Francolinus, Lerwa, Alectoris, Tetraophasis, Tetraogallus|
|Note||Japanese extends the name 鷓鴣 shako to snowcocks, monal partridges, etc., probably under the influence of English 'partridge'.|
|Name||竹鸡||テッケイ (竹鶏) tekkei|
|Note||The name 'bamboo fowl/chicken' is used for separate genera.|
|Name||雷鸟||ライチョウ (雷鳥) raichō|
|Genera covered||Lagopus||Lagopus, Tetrao, Bonasa, Falcipennis|
|Note||Chinese restricts the name 雷鸟 léi-niǎo to a single genus. Japanese extends the name 雷鳥 raichō to most members of the Tetraoninae.|
During the Ming and Qing Dynasties in China, several members of the Phasianidae were depicted in 'Mandarin Squares' (known as 补子 ) attached to official uniforms of high-ranking bureaucrats. They were:
The Golden Pheasant (锦鸡), insignia of rank for Grade Two of civilian official.
The Peacock (孔雀), insignia of rank for Grade Three of civilian official.
The Silver Pheasant (白鹇), insignia of rank for Grade Five of civilian official.
The Quail (鹌鹑), insignia of rank for Grade Nine of civilian official in the Ming, Grade Eight in the Qing.
The word 鸡 'fowl' (or 野鸡 'wild fowl/chicken') is a Chinese slang word for 'prostitute'.