Chouyu

Variations: Jiuyu, Jiyu

The slopes of Exceedingly Lofty Mountain in China are home to the Chouyu. It is like a rabbit but has a bird’s beak, owl’s eyes, and the tail of a snake. It falls asleep (i.e. plays dead) when it sees people. If a chouyu is seen it is an omen of a locust plague.

Mathieu identifies this animal as the armadillo, but admits with impressive understatement that China is a bit far from the neotropics…

References

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.

Xiao

Variations: Raucous-Bird

Xiao

The Xiao or Raucous-Bird dwells on China’s Bridge-Channel Mountain. It is a bird with four wings, one eye, and a dog’s tail. It makes sounds like a magpie. Eating it cures abdominal pain and diarrhea. The Shan Hai Jing assures us that it resembles Kuafu the Boaster, which it does not.

It shares its name with an unrelated simian creature that resembles a Yu-Ape with longer arms.

References

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

Bifang

Variations: Bifang-bird

Bifang

The Bifang can be found on barren Mount Zhang’e in China. It looks like a crane but has only one leg; it has a white beak and red markings on a green background. Its call sounds like its name.

A bifang is an omen of inexplicable fire starting in town. This is probably connected to its red color. It was not always an evil omen, however, as it appears as a benevolent attendant of the Yellow Thearch in the Master Hanfei, and is the divine essence of wood in the Master of Huainan.

Some sources have the bifang itself as the arsonist, using fire it carries in its beak. Mathieu equates it with the Chinese crane, whose habit of standing on one leg may have inspired the bifang’s appearance.

References

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.

Lushu

Lushu

[Guest art courtesy of the awesome Arlyn Reid! Let them know how much you like it!]

South of the Niu-Trees Mountain in China has red metal on its southern slope and white metal on its northern slope. It is also home to the Lushu, which looks like a horse with a white head, a red tail, and stripes like a tiger. Its cry is like a human singing. Wearing the lushu from one’s belt ensures the conception of many descendants.

While the Shan Hai Jing is unclear on the subject, Guo Pu clarifies that a piece of the lushu’s skin and hair ensures fertility. Its red tail may be a symbol of its vigor and potency.

The stripes suggest that the lushu may be inspired by a number of striped ungulates – zebras, wild donkeys, or even okapis. Mathieu cites the polygamy of zebras and the historical virility of donkeys, but it probably is not an extinct species of red-tailed zebra.

References

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.

Fei

Variations: Fei-beast

Fei

The Fei or Fei-beast can be found on Great Mountain, the eighth and last of China’s Eastern Mountains. It is shaped liked an ox, with a white head and a single eye. Its tail is that of a snake.

When a fei moves over grass, the plants below it wither and die. When it crosses a stream, the water evaporates at its touch. Its appearance is an omen of worldwide plague and wars.

References

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.

Qinyuan

Variations: Qinyuan-bird, Yuanyuan, Zhiyuan

Qinyuan

Mount Kunlun is the Pillar of Heaven, a place of great energy and endowed of a fiery brilliant aura. Four rivers – Black, Red, Yellow, and Oceanic – flow from Mount Kunlun, and the mountain is administered by the god Luwu, or the Queen Mother of the West Xi-Wangmu in later texts.

Many wonderful birds and beasts dwell on Mount Kunlun, including the Qinyuan or Qinyuan-bird. It looks like a bee, but is the size of a mandarin duck. Its sting is venomous enough to kill other animals and to wither trees.

Despite the classification as a “bird”, Mathieu believes it to be simply a large stinging insect.

References

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.

Yin Shu

Variations: Tien-schu, Tin-schu, Tyn-schu, Yn-schu

yin-shu

In Siberia, mammoth fossils were seen as the remains of giant mole-like creatures that lived and moved underground. These subterannean monsters tore up riverbanks as they tunneled, but died in broad daylight.

In China, numerous sources, including the treatise Ly-Ki, tell of the Yin Shu, the “Hidden Rodent” or “Hidden Mouse” that dwells in dark caves. The yin shu grows from the size of a buffalo to as big as an elephant in Manchurian manuscripts, but otherwise looks mouselike. It has a no tail (or a short tail), is dark in color, and has short legs, a short neck, and small eyes. Yin shu are dim-witted, slow, and extremely powerful, digging out caves in areas with the roots of the fu-kia plant. They have shown up when rivers flooded plains, and die instantly when exposed to sunlight.

Until recently, mammoth bones in drugstores were labeled as yin shu.

References

Buel, J. W. (1887) Sea and Land. Historical Publishing Company, Philadelphia.

Laufer, B. and Pelliot, P. (1913) Arabic and Chinese Trade in Walrus and Narwhal Ivory. T’Oung Pao, Second Series, v. 14, no. 3, pp. 315-370.

Pouchet, F. A. (1865) L’Univers. Librairie de L. Hachette et Cie, Paris.