Eastern Unicorns Of The Ancient World

Unicorns are rare in legends and almost as rare in modern fiction, but when it comes to the lore of the Unicorn, we are on firmer ground.  Snippets of information and traveler's tales are scattered throughout ancient literature and it is the echoes of these that are largely responsible for keeping the image of the Unicorn right down to the present day. 
Perhaps the first person ever to see a unicorn and report it carefully was the Chinese emperor Fu Hsi, who lived some twenty-eight hundred years before Christ.  He was noted for his invention of various musical instruments and trigams, three letter inscriptions used for divining the future.  One day, while musing on the fleeting nature of human life, with its limited possibilities for making permanent contributions to society, Fu Hsi glanced up to see a strange deer like animal standing in the nearby Yellow River.  The creature was approximately the size of a calf but had a silvery horn extending from the middle of its forehead and was multicolored.  Wherever it stood in the river, the muddy water became clear.  As the creature moved away Fu Hsi saw many strange markings on its side and back.  As it disappeared in the distance, the emperor found himself tracing these symbols on the ground 
before him, and he suddenly realized that such markings could be used to portray ideas and words. Thus a unicorn, or a ki-lin, was responsible for the introduction of a written Chinese language, which, of course, made it possible to record ideas and philosophy for posterity.  Following the death of Fu Hsi, the unicorn was not seen again in China until the reign of Huang,   the Yellow Emperor, who designed houses and the first cities.  In his very old age he saw a unicorn standing in his garden.  The animal called out softly to him as he gazed at it in rapt admiration.  Soon afterward he died, and it was believed that his spirit was carried into eternity on the back of the ki-lin.  Since then, the appearances of unicorns in China have been extremely rare and have been associated with periods of happiness and good fortune, as when a ruler is kind and just, or as an omen of a sad event, just prior to the death of a great man. 
Over 2,500 years ago the Ki-lin came to a young woman named Yen Chen-tsai.  Into her hand it dropped a tablet made of jade, the beautiful green stone used in much Chinese art.  On the stone was a message, prophesying that she would become the mother of a "throne less king."  The prophecy was true, for Yen Chen-tsai became the mother of the great Chinese sage Confucius.  Confucius never wore a crown or commanded men.  Yet his teachings did as much to shape China as the power of many kings and warlords combined.
It was said that Ki-lin walked so softly its hooves made no sound.  Some believed that this was because it was so softhearted it did not want to crush the blades of grass beneath its feet. It had a voice like a thousand wind chimes, avoided fighting at all costs and lived for a thousand years.  Confucius himself saw a ki-lin only once in his long and illustrious life.  Upon seeing the creature, he knew that his own time of death was near.   Thereafter, the Chou dynasty slowly declined.  It was not until some four hundred years later, during the Han dynasty, that the ki-lin again appeared, this time to the emperor Wu Ti, who built a special room in his palace to honor the ki-lin. 
Since then, no more sightings of the creature have occurred, and many people now believe that the ki-lin is extinct in China.  Because it has been seen so very rarely, almost nothing is known of its life, but it is believed that so long as famine, war, and unhappiness are present on earth the last ki-lin, if indeed any still exist, will remain hidden in the forest wilderness of China unseen by humans.

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