Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Gentle Qilin

The Gentle Qilin

The Qilin is a mystical hoofed chimerical creature, often depicted with what looks like fire all over its body. It has the head of Dragon and the body of horse. It represents protection, prosperity, success, longevity and illustrious offspring. It is a good omen that brings ruì (roughly translated as "serenity" or "prosperity"). The Qilin (sometimes misleadingly called the "Chinese unicorn" due to Western influence) is believed to manifest upon the occasion of an imminent person’s arrival, or when a wise sage or an illustrious ruler has departed.
During the Zhou dynasty the Qilin ranked higher than the Dragon or Phoenix; Qilin first, the Phoenix ranked second and the Dragon third. In the Post-Qin Chinese hierarchy of mythical animals, in fables where the Qilin was depicted as the sacred pet of the deities, the Qilin ranked the third after the Dragon and Phoenix. In Japan (Qilin) Kirin are portrayed as a dragon shaped like a deer with an ox’s tail, and they preserved their primary importance, with the Phoenix placed second and the Dragon third.

The earliest references to the Qilin were in the 5th century BC, in the book of Zuo Zhuan. In its historical account we are told that after Zheng He’s voyage to the East Africa around the area of modern day Kenya he had brought back two giraffes to the Emperor in Nanjing. The giraffes were thereafter referred to as Qilins.
The Qilin and the giraffe were both vegetarian and shared a quiet nature on top of their reputed ability to "walk on grass without disturbing it”. Furthermore, the Qilin were described as having antlers like a deer and scales like a dragon or fish whereas the giraffe had horn-like "ossicones" on its head and a tessellated coat pattern that looked like scales. Even today the giraffe is still called girin by Koreans and kirin by the Japanese.

Back then the Emperor had proclaimed the giraffe as a magical creature, whose capture signified the greatness of his power. By the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) the original Qilins were long gone. In subsequent legends their appearance took on a more stylized representation of the giraffe, becoming mixed with some attributes of the tiger, dragon and other animals. The Ming artisans represented the Qilin as an oxen-hoofed animal with a dragon-like head surmounted by a pair of horns with flame-like head ornaments and a scaled body. Sometimes the creature is depicted with a single horn on its forehead, a multicolored back, and hooves of a horse, body of a deer and the tail of an ox.
During the Manchu Qing dynasty (1644–1911) the Qilin was depicted as having 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.

The Qilin’s attributes are:

Though fearsome, the Qilin only punish the wicked. Its manifestation bespeaks of a wise and benevolent leader in a country or even a household. Being such a peaceful creature when it walks on grass or vegetation it takes care not to trample a single blade or step on any living thing. A Qilin is said to also be able to walk on water. If a pure person is threatened by an obvious culprit the Qilin transforms into a fierce creature, spouting flames from its mouth and displays other fearsome aspects.
In legend Qilins are linked to children and childbirth. Couples who desperately want children appeal to the Qilin and the Qilin grants them their wish. The Qilin is said to take special care of those children abandoned on hillsides by their birth parents, such is its compassionate heart.

The birth of the great sage Confucius was also presaged by the appearance of a Qilin who appeared in the courtyard of his parent’s home on the night Confucius was born, bearing a scroll in its mouth. This scroll announced the Will of Heaven: that a baby will be born who will be “a man of extraordinary good moral character and talent, an exemplar of human excellences. Although he is not on the throne, he has the virtue of a king.” When Confucius was 71 years old he was informed that an elk had been wounded and left to die just outside the city. When he went to see the stricken animal he found it was a Qilin and set down his sorrow over the killing of such a magnificent creature in his work “Spring Autumn” and ceased writing. Two years after the Qilin’s death, saddened by the death of his son and the auspicious animal Confucius died in 479 B.C. and since then the Qilin has been closely associated with his teachings.

Qilin Dance; Eye-dotting Ceremony


In this video the Buddhist monk is dotting the eye in a ceremony for the Qilin dance. When a drought ravaged China in times past the Earth Diety and Laughing Face Buddha tried to find a solution to the disaster. Buddha knew that the Qilin had the power to stop disasters and, with the help of the Monkey, they came upon its cave. When the Qilin arrived on Earth it began spitting fire and distributing serenity and prosperity upon the people. The drought ended, people and animals recovered and bountiful harvests resumed once more. The dance created from this story is performed during festivities and celebrations and is called “Tristar meet a friend, qilin leaves his cave.” This dance is said to be particularly hard to perform due to its rapid, jerky movements that are full of energy and tax the dancer’s muscles.





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