The Chi Lin (麒麟) is a celestial creature often known as the Chinese unicorn or dragon horse.
This is because the horse-like creature is often depicted with one, two or three horns. Sometimes even without horns.
Chi are males and Lin are females. Females don’t have horns.
The chi lin, or qi lin, is also understood to be a product of the dragon. And observers will be able to easily associate it’s head resembling that of a dragon with one look.
The animal can be best described as one with a deer body and dragon head.
In classical writings by ancient scholars, it is also described as a creature of white color and having scales, 5 toes on each foot, horns covered with fur, and a tail that resembles that of an ox.
It has also been described as a creature with a body consisting five colors of red, white, blue, yellow and black. This might be a reason why it is classified as a creature that encompasses all 5 elements, even though the color of wood is missing among these 5 colors.
It holds the title of the pre-eminent of all hairy creatures, and has the ability to walk on both land and water.
Together with the dragon, phoenix, and tortoise, the chi lin rounds up the 4 supernatural creatures in the classical Chinese “Book of Rites” (禮記).
The Japanese version of the qi lin is the Kirin.
And there was a period of time when the world outside of China mistook the chi lin as a reference to the giraffe.
Legend of the Chi Lin
The chi lin is generally associated with bringing wealth and descendants luck to people. On top of that, it is also known to be a benevolent protector against relationship problems by bringing harmony into a household.
However, most of it’s legend and stories in Chinese literature associates it with descendants luck and fertility luck.
Ancient art of chi lins often have youth riding on one of these creatures flying over the clouds and holding a lotus in hand. This signifies having sons continually.
In central China, one of the celebrations carried out by natives include youngsters walking about in formation carrying stuffed figures of the chinese unicorn while being surrounded by lanterns. They then perform short sketches of folklore stories.
Mythical stories about Confucius also made references to the chi lin.
For example, the creature once held a piece of jade and presented it to the mother of Confucius as if being a messenger sent from the heavens to convey his destiny.
Another story has him broken into tears when an injured stag appears which he deduced as a chi lin with a bad omen.
Paintings of confucius sometimes have the phoenix soaring in the sky while the chi lin roams on the hills. This is because legend has it that a phoenix appeared amongst the clouds when confucious was born, and the chi lin was said to have last appeared just before confucius’s death.
However, some writers also contend that the celestial creature also appeared when Confucius was born. This is not surprising as it is known to appear when benevolent kings and great sages are identified.
It is also associated with the he-tu diagram in feng shui.
Another legend is that the chi lin emerged from out of the infamous yellow river bearing the mystic map in which the legendary emporer Fu Hsi is said to devise the Chinese language from.
Being a magical creature that doesn’t prey on other living animals, it is also sometimes used as a symbol in the practice of Buddhism.
An amusing folk-tale also tells of the birthday bash thrown by the Phoenix and invited all birds to the party celebrations, but the bat took a rain check claiming that it was a quadruped instead of a bird. Then the chi lin organized it’s own party and the bat did not attend it again. This time claiming that it’s not a quadruped as it had wings to fly with. This made both celestial creatures wary of the bat’s nature.
There was also a period of time when the unicorn was embroidered onto the court robes of only the top ranked military officials as if bestowing them with wisdom.
Then there is a saying that when a chi lin appears, the ruling emporer of that time was deemed to be wise and a worthy owner of the throne. It signifies a divine approval of his rule. Legend has it that the celestial creature appeared during the reigns of emperor Yao, Yu, Shun, and the Yellow emperor.
There are numerous other stories that made references to the Chi Lin that are not mentioned here.
The gist of it all is that this mythical creature is highly revered by the Chinese for all it’s good connotations and positive qualities.
It is like a jack of all trades.
Placement of the chi lin
While the dragon is associated with the East in feng shui, the dragon horse has no such affiliations.
However, cultural Chinese tradition associates it with the West. Which makes us wonder whether there is some association with the white tiger in landscape feng shui or some sort of misrepresentation occurring somewhere in time.
You pretty much place them where you need them.
Saying that, the most popular use of it is to appease the grand duke… because homeowners often mistake it as the pi yao!
Do note that while the chi lin might be able to take some heat off the grand duke’s temper, it will not be as effective as the pi yao for appeasing the grand duke. Why this is so is explained here.
The chi lin is a great feng shui symbol to call for wealth luck as it is believed to be able to draw the cosmic breath of the dragon.
Figurines for display and accessories like keychains are often made in brass, porcelain, and resin.
They can also be placed on clutter free work desks to improve career and success luck.
It is especially useful for those holding government jobs or those in the military.
Paintings of the creature in any home or office can not just induce good fortune, but also help to create a harmonious environment for everyone.
Otherwise, the unicorn can be placed in any lucky area of the house to magnify the nature of luck that is desired.
This is because of the diverse positive connotations that the creature brings.
On side tables beside the sofa in the living room, it can bring a form of support to inhabitants.
As protective symbols, they are sometimes displayed in a male and female pair (yin-yang) as an alternative to the fu dogs on both side of the front door.
However, if you intend to position protective animals to protect the front door, why not use the proven fu dogs instead?
They can also be placed to subdue negative energy or sha chi inside the house.
As a remedy for the 3 killings affliction, chi lins are sometimes displayed in threes to keep the affliction in check.
However for managing the 3 killings, a more common symbolic cure is with the threesome of celestial guardians consisting of the chi lin, fu dog and pi yao.
Finally, they are not suitable to be placed in kitchens and bedrooms.