Xi

Variations: Xi-Rhinoceros; Xiqu (potentially); Si, Si-Rhinoceros (potentially)

Xi

Among the wildlife to be found on Cauldron Mountain, Mount Min and Pray-and-Pass Mountain is the Xi. It is like a black water buffalo with a pig’s head, a large belly, and three-toed elephant’s feet on short legs. It has three horns, found on its nose, forehead, and crown. The nose horn does not fall off and helps it eat. Xi feed primarily on brambles, and therefore often drool blood. It may be the same animal as the Xiqu, which is a man-eating blue-black ox that makes sounds like a baby.

The Si is similar, but blue or green with a single horn weighing 1,333 pounds. Its thick skin could be used as armor.

Guo Pu mocked the Xi for its big nose, and the Si for its tough hide which ironically made it more desirable and vulnerable to human exploitation.

Both Xi and Si have been used interchangeably to refer to a number of large herbivores including oxen, yaks, and buffalo, but they are generally believed to be rhinos.

References

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

Danghu

Variations: Danghu-bird

Danghu

Upper-Shen Mountain or Shangshen is a rugged, rocky peak with no vegetation on it, but there are hazelnut groves at its base. There, Danghu birds can be seen flying from branch to branch. A danghu looks like a pheasant, but it flies using its hypertrophied whiskers and throat feathers. Consuming a danghu protects from and cures myopia. Guo Pu extolled the virtues of the danghu, using it as a metaphor for the economical mindset of Daoism as it makes do with what it has.

Mathieu suggests that this bird is the masked Japanese grosbeak (Eophona personata), which is nonetheless unwhiskered and unpheasantlike.

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.

Bo

Variations: Poh

Bo

According to the Guideways through Mountains and Seas, the animal known as Bo can be found around Mount Winding-Center (identified as Mount Xue), where Huai-trees grow and where jade, realgar, and metals are plentiful. It can also be found on the plains of Mongolia and on islands in the Northern Sea. The existence of bo in the district of Shen Su was unknown to its residents, until a man called Leu Chang informed them by quoting the Shan Hai Jing for good measure.

A bo looks like a horse with a white body and a black tail, with a single horn on its head. It has tiger’s feet and saw-like tiger’s teeth, and makes a sound like a rolling drum. Bo are strict carnivores that feed upon tigers and leopards, although other sources state that leopards eat bo, and bo in turn eat tigers. A bo will protect against weapons if its flesh is eaten, or if tamed and used as a soldier.

Bo are just and honorable animals, and will reward virtuous behavior accordingly. When the wise magistrate Chung Wa of the Kingdom of Peh Chi faced an invasion by a large number of carnivorous wild animals, six bo appeared and slaughtered the beasts in thanks for the magistrate’s goodness. Duke Huan of Qi’s horse looked like a bo, according to his prime minister Guan Zhong, but presumably did not eat tigers.

References

Gould, C. (1886) Mythical Monsters. W. H. Allen and Co., London.

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.

Zhubieyu

Variations: Pearl-turtle

Zhubieyu

The Zhubieyu, or Pearl-turtle, can be found in the Li River and Yu Lake, near Vine Mountain. This unusual fish or reptile looked like a lung (or otherwise a piece of dried meat) with four eyes and six legs. It contains and spits out pearls, and its flesh tastes sweet and sour. Zhubieyus are considered a delicacy, and eating them protects from seasonal epidemics and furunculosis.

Guo Pu marveled at the lot of these “floating lungs… Embodying Heaven, Earth, and Man”, and found irony in the fact that their own usefulness doomed them.

They appear to be softshell turtles. Mathieu describes them as “red softshells” or “pearled softshells”.

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.

Bingfeng

Variations: Ping-feng, Pingpeng, Chuti/Ch’ou-t’i

Bingfeng final

The Bingfeng is an odd creature from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. It looks like a black pig with an elongate, tubular body, and it has two heads, one at each end. It may be found in the land of Shaman Xian. Borges, who referred to it as the Ping-feng and sourced it from the T’ai Kuang Chi, located it in the land of Magical Water.

Guo Pu speculated that the presence of two heads would have made the bingfeng extremely stubborn. Wen Yiduo, on the other hand, believed the heads were symbolic of hermaphroditism, representing the separate sexes.

A number of other two-headed Chinese animals have been recorded, but they have not been described in much detail. Their symbolism is assumed to be the same.

The Pingpeng, found on the mountain of Aoaoju in the Great Wilds to the West, is very similar but has two heads left and right, instead of front and back. It is probably the same animal as the Bingfeng.

The Chuti, or Ch’ou-t’i according to Borges, is found in the Great Wilds to the South between the Red River and the Desert of Shifting Sands. It also has two heads left and right, and is depicted with doglike features.

References

Borges, J. L.; trans. Hurley, A. (2005) The Book of Imaginary Beings. Viking.

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

Dijiang

Variations: Ti-chiang

Dijiang

The divine bird known as Dijiang, the “Thearch Long River”, was like a yellow sack with an aura of cinnabar; Borges, calling it the Ti-chiang, described it as bright red. It had six legs and four wings, but no eyes or facial features of any kind, living in a perpetual state of confusion. It was also fond of singing and dancing.

This “state of confusion” led to the association of Dijiang with Hundun, a being of cosmic chaos. The undifferentiated Hundun had no eyes, ears, mouth, or orifices of any sort, and died when his guests tried to drill openings in his body.

Dijiang’s description can be found in the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas, where it is located in the Celestial Mountain along with large quantities of metal and jade. Borges attributes it to the T’ai Kuang Chi.

The four wings and six legs, as well as the lack of apparent head, suggest a magnified insect of some sort.

References

Borges, J. L.; trans. Hurley, A. (2005) The Book of Imaginary Beings. Viking.

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.