- 1 Chinese
- 2 Japanese
- 3 Korean
- 4 Vietnamese
|male unicorn||female unicorn|
|simp. and trad.
|variant forms||騏驎 obsolete|
Qilin was a propitious beast in ancient Chinese mythology, with the shape of a deer, tail of an ox, a single horn and scales all over its body. Old Chinese pronunciation for this word was *g(ɯ)-rin (Zhengzhang), and in pre-Qin times the beast was also referred to as
the last two having been attested in the oracle bone script already. This is much debate as to what animal the qilin beast was; some maintain that the qilin was a beast only found in mythology, even though it may have been based on some animal in pre-historic times, and some argue that the qilin was in reality the river deer, the ox or cow, or the Indian rhinoceros (Wang, 2009).
During the Song–Ming Dynasties, the giraffe was introduced to China, either by envoys from other Asian or African countries, or through Zheng He who commanded multiple expeditionary voyages to Asia and Africa (Zhang, 2007). Besides using the transcription 祖剌法 (zǔlàfǎ) (from Arabic زُرَافَة (zurāfa, “giraffe”)) to name the animal, the Chinese also referred to it as qilin, believing it was the prototype of the mythological beast qilin. Such association may be due to the phonological similarity of the words for “giraffe” in North African languages, to the pronunciation of 麒麟 () at the time (i.e. a ɡɨ liɪnphono-semantic matching) (Zhang, 2007). Compare:
- Somali geri (“giraffe”), Sango kôlo, Amharic ቀጭኔ (ḳäč̣ne), Kazakh керік (kerik), Mursi kirin and Arabic زَرَافَة (zarāfa), زُرَافَة (zurāfa) (whence English giraffe).
The “giraffe” sense of 麒麟 is obsolete in modern Chinese, but is preserved in the Sinoxenic loanwords in Japanese (麒麟 (kirin)) and Korean (기린). In modern Vietnamese (kì lân), this word refers to the beast qilin, as well as the western mythological beast unicorn.
- (Chinese mythology) qilin (propitious mythological beast) (Classifier: 隻／只)
- 豈惟民哉？麒麟之於走獸，鳳凰之於飛鳥，太山之於丘垤，河海之於行潦，類也。 [Classical Chinese, trad.]
- From: Mengzi (Mencius), circa 4th century BCE
- Qǐ wéi mín zāi? Qílín zhī yú zǒushòu, fènghuáng zhī yú fēiniǎo, Tàishān zhī yú qiūdié, hé hǎi zhī yú xíngliáo, lèi yě. [Pinyin]
- Is it only among men that it is so? There is the Qilin among quadrupeds, the Fenghuang (phoenix) among birds, the Tai mountain among mounds and ant-hills, and rivers and seas among rain-pools. Though different in degree, they are the same in kind.
岂惟民哉？麒麟之于走兽，凤凰之于飞鸟，太山之于丘垤，河海之于行潦，类也。 [Classical Chinese, simp.]
- (figuratively, literary) outstanding person; man of ability
- (obsolete) giraffe (ruminant of the genus Giraffa)
- (～區) Qilin District (district in Qujing, Yunnan province, China)
- (～鎮) Qilin (a town in Zongyang, Tongling, Anhui, China)
|Kanji in this term|
- (mythology, Chinese mythology) a qilin
- 2010 May 23, Aoyama, Gosho, “ＦＩＬＥ.５ 青龍 [FILE.5 Azure Dragon]”, in 名探偵コナン [Legendary Detective Conan], volume 68 (fiction, in Japanese), Tokyo: Shogakukan, →ISBN:
- Sore wa dōbutsu no kirin! Mondai no kirin wa… Zenshin ga kiiroi uroko de ōwarete ite, sugata wa shika, ushi no o to uma no hizume o mochi, ryū ni nita atama kara ippon tsuno ga haete ru… Chūgoku no densetsu jō no shinjū da yo!
- That’s giraffe the animal! The qilin we’re talking about… has a deer-like body covered in golden scales, with a cow’s tail and a horse’s hooves, and with a single horn growing from its dragon-ish head… It’s a mythical beast from Chinese legends!
- (shogi) the kirin, a piece in chūshōgi and larger shogi variants
- a giraffe (mammal)
- (giraffe): ジラフ (jirafu)
|Hanja in this term|
|Hán tự in this word|
麒麟 (kì lân)