1. “Pinyin, or Hanyu Pinyin (lit. ‘Chinese spelling’), is the sole official system of romanization presently employed in the People’s Republic of China. It was formally endorsed by the State Council on 1 November 1957 and subsequently approved for official use by the national People’s Congress on 11 February 1958. In China it is used in schools for the teaching of correct pronunciation and in the promotion of the standard language, putonghua. In 1979 pinyin was made official in China’s dealings with foreign countries, in that year all foreign-language publications originating in China, including dispatches from the New China News Agency, began to use pinyin. In recent years pinyin has also increasingly come to replace the Wade-Giles system in scholarly publications concerned with China in the English-speaking world” (Jerry Norman, 1988. Encyclopedia of Asian History. New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 260).
2. The use of the terms “Before Common Era” (B.C.E.) and “Common Era” (C.E.) instead of B.C. and A.D. is now accepted practice. It is particularly appropriate in the case of the mythic Chinese unicorn, where the subject matter deals with ancient cultures totally unrelated in any way to Christianity.
3. Huangdi was the first in the series of Five Legendary Chinese Emperors and is thought to have ruled about 4,700 years ago. The meaning of the name Huangdi has recently been the subject of scholarly discussion. Traditionally the graph huang has been interpreted to mean “yellow.” However, James Hsü believes that the name originally meant “Jade Pendant Emperor,” but was later misread as “Yellow Emperor.” He feels that the character huang for “yellow” is meaningless in this context, while the early kings and emperors of China wore strings of jade pendants called huang suspended from their waists to indicate their rank and status (Hsü, 1996, 42–50). Mark Edward Lewis, on the other hand, suggests that the figure of the “Yellow Emperor” may have emerged from an ancient rainmaking ritual, and that “it is quite possible that the word ‘huang” in the emperor’s title etymologically meant ‘rainmaking shaman’ or ‘rainmaking ritual’ (Lewis, 1990, 194). In Tsung-tung Chang’s view, “this emperor must have had an appearance of northern white people, as the epithet ‘Huang-di’ can etymologically be interpreted as ‘blond heavenly god’ (Chang, 1988, 35).
4. For a discussion of the various Chinese characters used for xiezhi, see Forke 1962, 320 n. 3.
5. Special thanks are due to Kevin Seymour and Hans-Dieter Sues, my former colleagues at the Royal Ontario Museum, for so generously sharing with me their expert knowledge of ancient animals.
6. I am deeply indebted to Janus Paludan, former Danish ambassador to China, for providing me with an English translation of the relevant passage, as well as pertinent information about its author, thereby solving the mystery of the presence of the giant unicorn Elasmotherium in a Danish ‘Ice Age Saga.’
7. In the early part of the twentieth century a savage controversy erupted among scholars over the correct interpretation of these two characters. For information on this old academic feud see: Laufer, 1914; Bishop, 1933; Hopkins, 1939; and Jenyns, 1954-55.
8. For maps and information on the ancient Asian sea trade see The Maritime Silk Route, 1996
9. I would like to thank my former colleagues, Roberta Shaw, Krzysztof Grzymski and the late Nicholas Millet, of the ROM’s Egyptian section, for their guidance and advice in the preparation of this chapter.
10. My grateful thanks go to Lisandro Pacheco, formerly of the Botany section of the Royal Ontario Museum, for his help with the scientific nomenclature in this chapter.
11. Jade pendants have been worn by Chinese kings since ancient times. The earliest use of jade mythic animals as protective talismans worn suspended on the body occurs in the Neolithic Hongshan Culture (BCE 4000–3000) which was based in present day Inner Mongolia and Liaoning province. Chinese archaeologists call these beasts zhulong or ‘pig-dragons.’ In my opinion, however, they are not dragons, but images of an ancient boar surviving from the Age of Mammals which may have been sacred to the Hongshan people. This species, called the Chinese Chleuastochoerus, or “sneering pig” is distinguished by the fact that “in the males, the upper jaw forms a peculiar arch over the canines, with occasional ‘cauliflower growth’ of the bone” (Kurtén, 1971, 141). Thus its main distinguishing feature was a series of thick folds over its eyes which gave it a sneering look. Its difficult name comes from a Greek word which means “to disguise oneself by making ugly grimaces” (Andersson, 1934, 85). The use of smaller jade zhulong as talismans became common later in Korea and Japan, where they are called kokok and magatama respectively. For further information see Jeannie Parker, 1990. “Silla Jade Ornaments: The Origin and Significance of Kokok,” Korean Culture. Vol. 11, No. 3, 5-7, 34-35
12. Jan Chapman’s research into the various aspects of rhino horn, especially its structure, is extremely interesting. However, her mistaken belief that the qilin was the Chinese unicorn casts doubt upon her discussion of the myth of the unicorn.
13. It is interesting to note that this same Julius Solinus wrote a description of the unicorn as follows: “But the cruellest (of all animals) is the Unicorne, a monster that belloweth horribly, bodied like a horse, footed like an elephant, and headed like a stag. His horn sticketh out of the midst of his forehead … so sharp, that whatsoever he pusheth at, he striketh it through easily. He is never caught alive; killed he may be, but taken he cannot be….” Julius Solinus, Polyhistoria, trans. Arthur Golding in The Excellent and Pleasant Works of Julius Solinus Polyhistor (Gainsville, Florida: Scholars Reprints, 1955), 198.
14. For a discussion of the problems involved in identifying guduxi see Laufer, 1913, and Ettinghausen, 1950.