Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The qilin, also spelled kylin (; Cantonese: kay-lun; Hokkien: kee lin), or kirin (from Japanese), is a mythical hooved Chinese creature that is said to appear in conjunction with the arrival of a sage. It is a good omen that brings rui (Chinese: 瑞; pinyin: rùi; roughly translated as "serenity" or "prosperity"). It is often depicted with what looks like fire all over its body.
The nature of the beast
Although it looks fearsome, the qilin only punishes sinners. It can walk on grass and yet not trample the blades and it can also walk on water. Being a peaceful creature, its diet does not include flesh.
Ming dynasty example
A Qing dynasty example
The qilin of China's subsequent Manchurian dominated Qing dynasty (1644–1911) is a much more fanciful animal. Manchurian depictions of the qilin depict a creature with the head of a dragon, the antlers of a deer, the skin and scales of a fish, the hooves of an ox and tail of a lion.
Interestingly, in the Chinese hierarchy of mythological animals, the qilin is ranked as the second-most powerful creature after the dragon, but in Japan, the kirin occupies the top spot.
For other uses of the word "kirin" see the Kirin article.
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