Qilin — Mythical Creature of Benevolence, Strength, and Auspiciousness
Qilin also referred to as the Chinese Unicorn, is the symbol of benevolence, bravery, virtue, and talent, and represents a good omen that can foretell future greatness.
What is the Origin of Qilin?
Qilin has been an auspicious creature since the moment it was documented, for its close connection to the birth and death of sage Confucius (about 551 BC — 479 BC).
One day, a Qilin came to a family's yard, came to the pregnant mother, and spit out an inscribed jade tablet, saying "Son of God of Water, A Remarkable King But Without A Throne".
The next day, a baby boy was born into this family, who later grew up into Confucius, a great educationist and philosopher, and founder of Confucianism.
Jade Decoration of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912), Based on Story of Qilin Spitting of Inscribed Jade Tablet that Foretold the Future Greatness of Confucius — Palace Museum
In Shijing (Classic of Poetry or Book of Songs), the first poetry collection in China that was compiled by Confucius, it was documented as a righteous, kind-hearted mythical creature, and was used to represent talented and virtuous nobles.
In the year 481 BC, the king of the state where Confucius was living hurt and captured a beast, which later was identified as a Qilin, the auspicious creature that only appeared in peaceful and prosperous places.
Unfortunately, this auspicious creature died soon, which in Confucius' opinion, was an omen of an upcoming chaotic, unstable era.
He wept and wrote a eulogy, stopped writing books, and passed away two years later.
Since then, the activities of Qilin have been regarded as the symbol of the birth or death of a sage and can foretell a peaceful or chaotic era in the future.
What is the Relationship Between Qilin and Chinese Dragon?
In regard to the connection between Qilin and the Chinese Dragon, there are some different versions:
Qilin is a descendant of Dragon Yinglong;
Qilin is the kid of a dragon and a cattle.
Images of Qilin Carved on Stone Fence of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368) — Capital Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
What Does A Qilin Look Like?
Qi for males and Lin for females, their looks in historical documentation and cultural relics differed in history.
However, generally, Qilin is colorful, and has a single horn, with a dragon or lion’s head, elk’s body, tiger’s eyes, dragon's scales, cattle's hooves, and ox’s tail.
They can fly in the sky, walk on water, roar like thunder, blow out the fire, and are fed on grass.
However, with strong hooves and sharp horns, they had never trampled on anything; with such intimidating and strong power, they had never attacked anyone.
For thousands of years, they have always chosen to be compassionate, and benevolent, and stay kind.
Qilin Blowing Out Fire, Picture by Aowu Xiaonaixiong.
What Does Qilin Symbolize in Chinese Culture?
For the connection to the sage Confucius, Qilin has been the auspicious representative of:
The mythical creature that can bring people smart babies;
Benevolence and Compassion;
Power and Righteousness;
Flourishing and Peaceful;
Omen of Appearing of Sages and Future Greatness;
Representative of brilliant people.
How Have Images of Qilin Been Used Throughout History?
Qilin Court, a hall in the royal palace of the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC — 8 AD), placed pictures of exceptional and contributive generals and ministers that were approved by emperors.
Since then, Qilin Court or Qilin Ge has been representative of exceptional accomplishment and supreme honor.
Qilin Hoof Shape Golds of the Western Han Dynasty, Made Under Command of Emperor Wu of Han (156 BC — 87 BC) to Memorize Encountering of A Qilin During His Hunting and to Award Nobles and Contributive Officials — Nanchang Relic Museum for Haihun Principality of Han Dynasty (Photo by Dongmaiying)
In front of buildings, their statues are widely used to exorcise evil spirits, protect, and bring people living inside with good luck.
To Show Power and Authority
In Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912), Qilin was the pattern for the highest-ranked military officials to be embroidered on their clothes (in Chinese is Buzi).
To Pray for Good Luck
Qilin Dance, from a royal performance to a civilians' celebration, has been a traditional dance in important festivals to pray for good harvests and happy lives.
Qilin Carved on Gilt Silver Belt Decoration of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — Haidian Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
To Pray for Healthy and Smart Babies
Qilin's images, embroidered on clothes, painted on pictures, and made into amulets, which are given to women and kids to wear, have been a popular tradition in Chinese culture, to pray for healthy babies, and for kids to grow into brilliant and strong people.
Qilin Walking on Water, Picture by Aowu Xiaonaixiong.
Use of Qilin in Fengshui
As a kindhearted and powerful creature, Qilin statues have been widely used for Fengshui purposes and are believed can bring people fortune, wealth, luck, kids, and success.
However, the placement of their statues usually follows certain rules:
A pair should be placed together;
Statues usually should face the door;
Qilin in the front gate is for good luck and protection, on the study desk for success and career, in the bedroom for healthy and smart babies;
Exact positions differ based on people's birth dates and hours;
Their statues would only protect kind people, those evildoers or people in illegal business should not place Qilin, or else they would be punished.
Qilin Shape Cloisonne Incense Burner of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) — Palace Museum
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