The Unicorn
Unsolved Mystery.- The Unicorn is one of the most mysterious of all animals. It has been glorified in folk tales, songs, poems, and stories for centuries; and it remains one of the great "unsolved mysteries" of the world. Despite the widely held belief in its existence, it has not been seen in centuries ; and the popular Eastern image from Chinese folklore is very different from the familiar Western image of a white horse-like creature. The only consistent fact is that a Unicorn has a single horn in the middle of its forehead.

For true believers, the fact that it no longer exists only adds to the mystique; placing it in the same realm as the dinosaurs, the mammoth, and possibly such unknown creatures as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Others believe the Unicorn still exists in remote regions and can be discovered only by those of exceptional virtue and honesty.

In the meantime, we can marvel at its beauty and pay tribute to its unique place in the culture and history of the world.

The Eastern Unicorn

The Unicorn has existed in Chinese mythology for thousands of years. It appears in many different forms, but the most familiar is a beast with the body of a deer, the tail of an ox, the hooves of a horse, and a single short horn growing out of the middle of its forehead. The hair on its back is five-colored to represent the five sacred Chinese colors: red, yellow, blue, white, and black. The hair on its belly is yellow. In some accounts, it has green scales like a dragon.

The Chinese Unicorn is known as Kilin (pronounced chee-lin), which is a combination of both Ki, the male Unicorn, and Lin, the female Unicorn. It is careful not to tread on even the tiniest living thing and will eat only plant life that is no longer living. It lives for 1,000 years.

The Kilin is said to spring from the earth and is revered as one of the four superior animals of good omen (together with the phoenix, the dragon, and the tortoise) that foretell future events and represent the basic elements of life:

The First Unicorns

In Chinese mythology, the Unicorn was an animal of good omen that came to humans only on important missions. Its appearance was interpreted as a sign of good times, and the fact that it has not been seen in many centuries suggests that we are living in "bad" times. It will appear once again when the time is right and when goodness reigns.

One of the first Unicorns is said to have appeared almost 5,000 years ago to give Emperor Fu Hsi the secrets of  written language. Then, almost 4,700 years ago in 2697 B.C., another Unicorn made an appearance in the garden of the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di). This auspicious omen was seen by the emperor as a sign that his reign would be long and peaceful. Two Unicorns also lived during the reign of Emperor Yao, the fourth of the Five Emperors who shaped the world 4,000 years ago.

Birth and Death of Confucius Foretold by Unicorns

The Chinese also believed that the Unicorn could foretell the birth of great men like the philosopher Confucius. In 551 B.C., Confucius' pregnant mother met a Unicorn in the woods. It gave her a small piece of jade and placed its head in her lap. She realized the importance of the event and knew it was a good omen from the gods.

An inscription on the piece of jade told of the great wisdom her son would possess; and, sure enough, Confucius became the most respected of all Chinese philosophers. Even today, 2,500 years later, his prophetic words are still honored and revered. In his old age, Confucius reportedly saw the Unicorn for himself and knew that it meant he would soon die.

Other Eastern Unicorns

In addition to China, other Asian countries also have Unicorn traditions. In Japan, it is known as Kirin and has a shaggy mane and the body of a bull. Unlike the Chinese Unicorn, it was a beast to he feared, especially by criminals. In fact, it was able to detect guilt; and judges were known to call upon the Unicorn to determine the guilty parties in legal disputes. After fixing its eerie stare on the guilty party, it would then pierce him through the heart with its horn.

An Arabian Unicorn known as karkadann was supposedly endowed with magical qualities. Its horn was a good-luck charm against the scorpion, and eating its meat got rid of demons. Based on the description from ancient texts, experts now believe that the karkadann was actually an oryx, a large antelope that appears to have only one horn when seen from the side.

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