The Kirin Dragon (麒麟 / きりん) is a mythical creature of Japanese folklore. Of Chinese origin (Qilin), the kirin is often considered as the equivalent of the unicorn in the West. It generally appears in areas led by a wise and devoted chief. The males are named “ki” and females “rin”, the combination of the two characters forming the name “kirin”. This legendary beast embodies pay and kindness. 🐎🐉
Origin of the Kirin Dragon
The Kirin dragon was introduced to Japan through Chinese myths and legends where it is known as Qilin. Over time, Chinese and Japanese conceptions have evolved to give birth to slightly different beings. In Japan, the Kirin is considered the most powerful sacred animal of all, surpassing traditional creatures such as the dragon and the phoenix.
The first Kirin is said to have appeared in the garden of the legendary Huangdi (Yellow Emperor) in 2697 BC. About three centuries later, a couple of Kirin dragons were reported in the capital of Emperor Yao. These two events testify to the magnanimous nature of the rulers.
The advent of a great sage was announced when a kirin appeared to the pregnant mother of Confucius (6th century BC). The kirin dragon then regurgitated a tablet of jade on which was inscribed the greatness and potential of the future child to be born. The death of Confucius was announced when a Kirin dragon was wounded by a carriage.
In 1414, a living giraffe was brought to China for the first time and presented as a Kirin dragon to Emperor Ming Yongle. Seeing the flattery intended for him, the old hard-boiled warrior suddenly remarked that the animal was certainly not a “qilin” and was not endowed with wisdom.
Giraffes are also called “kirin” in Japanese, because of the features they share with the kirin dragon. Their long legs, scaly patterns, gentle nature and the bumps on their heads must have reminded the early Japanese of the appearance of the sacred beast.
Symbolism of the Kirin Dragon
Since the dawn of time, kirin have been seen as pure and benevolent beasts. Sculptures and paintings symbolizing their beneficial virtues have been created. The kirin dragon is considered a symbol of justice, peace and wisdom.
Because of their divine character, images of kirin frequently adorn temples and shrines. The kirin dragon is an omen of good omen and prosperity, its appearance is often seen as a sign of great news.
Physical Appearance of the Kirin Dragon
The Kirin dragon is a chimeric beast. According to legends, it looks like a deer 🦌, a horse or a unicorn with a dragon head. 🐲 Scales cover its body. It has an oxtail, a floating mane and a horn (sometimes two). Its body and hair are wrapped in an intense sacred fire. As for his face, it reflects the physiognomy of the Chinese dragon, it exudes absolute serenity.
Composed of several animals, the Kirin dragon is one of the rarest, most impressive and powerful creatures ever known in East Asia. It is a royal, holy and highly revered animal. Kirin is often considered a god in its own right.
Kirin in Japanese Mythology
In Japanese mythology, the Kirin dragon is described as a good and gentle animal. He is a vegetarian and never harms others. When he gallops, he does not trample on a single blade of grass and he takes care not to step on any living thing, even insects. Its beauty is only surpassed by its rarity. The kirin dragon appears only in times of peace on earth. 🦄
It is said that Kirin can only be seen on land belonging to wise and benevolent people. The arrival of the mythical hoofed creature heralds a golden age. Although the Kirin dragon is a peaceful being like the Japanese dragon, it can be fast and fierce if need be. It does not hesitate to attack under threat, or to defend an innocent being with its sacred fire.
Kirin in Popular Culture
The Kirin dragon is popular in the Land of the Rising Sun, here are some of its appearances in Japanese culture:
- Qilin is the name of a brand of Japanese beer. The logo was created in the effigy of the dragon and takes its values.
- In the second generation of Pokémon, Girafarig (kirinriki in Japanese) is a giraffe that is surely inspired by the sacred creature.
- In Final Fantasy 6, Kirin is an invocation. He also appears in Final Fantasy 14 in the form of a mount this time.
- In Monster Hunter, Kirin is an ancient dragon that can control lightning.