Variations: Qi-magpie, Qidui

“Where does the Qi-magpie dwell?” asks the Questions of Heaven. According to the Shan Hai Jing it makes its home on North Shouting Mountain. It looks like a chicken with a white head, the feet of a rat, and the claws of a tiger. It is a man-eater.

Mathieu identifies the que as the tree sparrow (Passer montanus). In the Questions of Heaven, the name Qi refers to the stars of Ursa Major, and the qidui is a quadrupedal fantastic beast. Mathieu concludes that the qique may have been a large bird of prey.


Mathieu, R. (1983) Étude sur la mythologie et l’ethnologie de la Chine ancienne. Collège de France, Paris.

Strassberg, R. E. (2002) A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. University of California Press.


  1. The term “xique” is used to denote magpies in general in China (luck-birds), and they appear to have quite an assortment of colourful and exotic looking magpies, many of which probably fit the vague description of this beast … except for the maneater part. Psumably. Could “qique” be a distortion (or the other way around)?

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  2. This one confused me when I first saw it, but I checked the poem and it was there. The Heavenly Questions can best be described as a theological tract, where the poet is trying to puzzle out some of the mysteries of his religion. The Qi-que is mentioned alongside a human-faced and four-limbed fish called the Ling Fish, in the line “Where is the home of the Ling-Fish; where does the Qi-magpie dwell?” The answer, found in the Classic of Mountains and the Seas, is that they both dwell in the north, the Ling-fish in the North Sea and the Qi-magpie dwells on a mountain overlooking the same Sea. Appropriate, since the Qi-magpie is named for the Dipper stars. During Qu Yuan’s time, the Big Dipper was believed to have nine stars. While one of these two “companion” stars corresponds to Alcor, the other one’s position in astronomy is unknown.

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