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Qilin - Chinese Unicorn

QilinThe qilin, also spelled as kyrin or kirin (Japanese), is the Chinese version of the unicorn. It is also sometimes called as the 'dragon horse' because it looks like it has the head of the dragon and body of a horse. Qilin, together with tortoise, dragon and phoenix are called ‘the four mythical animals’. Qilin was known several hundred years before the Ming dynasty (at least since the 5th century). The animal was worn by important officials and high ranking military officers in the dynasty periods. This qilin symbol was embroided on the backs of robes in order to denote the person’s rank.

The appearance of the qilin is a subject for debate. It is often appear with two horns and fire all over its body, most depictions involve a hodge-podge of animal parts, giving this qilin the scales of a carp, the tail of a lion, the hooves of an ox, and the head of the dragon, for example. According to the stories, these gentle animals can walk on flowers and grass without causing harm, they can walk on water too if they need to. Qilins eat a vegetarian diet and conscientiousIy avoid injury to all living things.

Qilin Dance

Qilin Dance

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The appearance of qilin is supposed to bring prosperity and good luck. Qilins are depicted in a stylized dance known as a unicorn or qilin dance which involves feats of physical dexterity and strength on the part of the dancers. The Qilin is also said to be a sacred pet of the deities in some stories, therefore in the hierarchy of dances (dragon dance, lion dance etc) performed by the Chinese, the qilin ranks second only to the Chinese dragon and phoenix who are the highest. However, before the Qin dynasty and during the Zhou dynasty, the qilin was ranked the highest, phoenix was ranked second and the dragon was the third.


According to the stories, qilins are friendly and loving animals, they are very gentle but they can also become violent when they need to protect someone. Qilins are closely linked with sages and other wise people. In the course of protecting the righteous, the animals may breathe fire, trample someone or gore someone with its horn. The Chinese believe that qilin only appears when a great sage is born or dies, it is said that this animal was seen shortly before the death and birth of Confucius. It can only be seen by the choosen ones. They were originally guardians of the gates of heaven according to the legend.

Qilin was identified with the giraffe for a brief period of time, probably that is because giraffe was quite novel to the Chinese when those tall animals were first brought to China. Giraffes are also vegetarian animals and they are naturally gentle too with heads which do resemble those of some mythical qilin. Even today, giraffe is called a “kirin” by the Koreans and Japanese.

Qilin in Feng Shui

Qilins are closely associated with fire and they are also associated with feminity since they exhibit some classically feminine traits like gentleness. In Feng Shui, it symbolizes joy, wisdom, magnificence, celebration, long life and famous children. It is used as a talisman to help facilitate the success of children. Qilin’s statues or images can help women who wish to have a child. It is believed that if you place the qilin near your entrance door, it will protect your family and kill all the negativity coming from outside. It is also displayed at workplace to attract wealth and promotion opportunities. People carved it on gravestones to protect against evil spirit as well as accompany the dead to heaven. If you want to place this talisman in your home, face it toward the exit. It does not need to be activated.



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