KiLin

The Unicorn of East Asia. One of the four sacred animals of Chinese mythology, symbolizing wisdom and justice.

Etymology: Chinese (Sino-Tibetan) word, composed of ki ("male") + lin ("female").

Variant names: Ch'i-lin, Ki-rin (Japanese), Qi-lin, Sin-yu (Japanese), Tso'po (in Tibet), Zhi.

Physical description: Deerlike, though covered with scales. Multicolored. Single horn with a fleshy tip. Has a flamelike mane. Sometimes portrayed as winged. Horselike hooves. Tail of an ox. The more goatlike Zhi also had a single horn.

Behavior: Solitary and elusive. Said to live for 1,000 years. Tame, gentle nature. Distribution: China and Japan. Possible explanations:

(1) The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) was well known to the Chinese and accurately described as a completely different animal.

(2) A surviving sivathere, a subfamily of ox-sized giraffids from Eurasia and Africa with hefty builds, relatively short legs and necks, and branching, skin-covered horns. They lived from 15 million years ago, in the Late Miocene, to the Late Pleistocene. Sources: Charles Gould, Mythical Monsters

(London: W. H. Allen, 1886), pp. 348-359; Odell Shepard, The Lore of the Unicorn (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1930), pp. 94-97, 210-211; Georges Margoulies, Anthologie raisonnee de la litterature chinoise (Paris: Payot, 1948); Jeannie Thomas Parker, The Mythic Chinese Unicorn Zhi, 2001, http://www.rom. on.ca/pub/unicorn/index.html.

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