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The Chinese Unicorn

The Chinese Unicorn?

chinese unicornThe Chinese Unicorn, which is known as the Ch'-i'lin (or k'i-lin if it is female), is one of the four animals of good omen; the others are the dragon, the phoenix, and the tortoise. To wound the Chinese Unicorn or to come across its dead body is unlucky. The Chinese believed that it brought important messages to humans, its appearance foretelling the birth of an upright ruler.

Picture from By The Sword, used with permission

Accounts suggest that the unicorn was first seen in 2697 BC when it wandered through the palace of the emperor Huang-ti. This was seen as a signs of the lucky years to come. It was said in the following years that emperor Huang-ti invented musical instruments fashioned after the call of the Unicorn. He taught his people how to build houses out of bricks and united the Chinese tribes for the first time. This turn of events was credited to the appearance of the Unicorn. According to the legend the k'i-lin ( female unicorn) came to the emperor again at the end of his life, to carry him to the land of the dead on its back.

The birth of confuscious is also said to have been foretold by a unicorn which appeared to his mother before his birth and predicted that she would bear a "king without throne."Confuscious teachings were to influence Chinese politics and philosophers for centuries to come.

The Chinese unicorn was different in appearance to the European unicorn. It has the body of a deer, the tail of an ox, and the hooves of a horse. Its skin is described as resembling radiant beams of light in multiple colors, consisting of red, yellow, blue, white, and black. Its short horn, which grows out of its forehead, is made of flesh. It is so gentle that when it walks it is careful not to tread on the tiniest living creature and will not even eat live grass but only what is dead. It is believed to have a lifespan of 1000 years.

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