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Chi Lin

The Chi Lin, also spelled Qi Lin (or kirin in 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" (roughly translated as "serenity" or "prosperity"). It is often depicted with what looks like fire all over its body.


Although it looks fearsome, the Chi Lin 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. It takes great care when it walks never to tread on any living thing, and it is said to appear only in areas ruled by a wise and benevolent leader (some say even if this area is only a house). It is normally gentle but can become fierce if a pure person is threatened by a sinner, spouting flames from its mouth and exercising other fearsome powers that vary from story to story.

The Chi Lin is the lord of all hairy creatures (mammals), while the Phoenix represents the feathered, Man the naked, the Dragon the scaly and the Turtle the armored.


In the Ming dynasty of China (1368–1644) the Chi Lin is represented as an oxen-hooved animal with a dragon-like head surmounted by a pair of horns and flame–like head ornaments. In some representations, the flames that come from the Chi Ling's mouth contain a book which is actually Buddhist Sutras.

The Chi Lin of China's subsequent Manchurian dominated Qing dynasty (1644–1911) is a much more fanciful animal. Manchurian depictions of the Chi Lin 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.

Alternative Names
Kay Lun, Kee Lin, Qi Lin, Kirin, Kei Loon, Kay Loon, Chee Lin, Chi Lin

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