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Ssu Ling

by Stephanie Ruben, Clarksville Middle School
The Ssu Ling are the four spiritual creatures of Chinese myth. These creatures are the Ch'i-lin, the Feng-huang, the tortoise Gui Xian, and the dragon Long. The Ch'i-lin has a deer's body, an ox's tail, horses hooves, and a single horn. The Ch'i-lin appeared only before the birth or death of a great man. The Feng-huang, or phoenix, was a bird with radiant feathers. It had an enchanting song. The Feng-huang appeared when good fortune was propitious. The tortoise was a symbol of a long life and righteousness. When it was a thousand years old it was able to speak the human language. They were used to foretell the future. The dragon, also bringer of god fortune, was the symbol of the power of the emperor. Dragons ruled the water: seas, rivers, and the rain-clouds.

Each one of the four spiritual creatures of the Chinese myth stands for one of the symbols on the compass. The Ch'i-lin was the western point of the compass. The Feng-huang was the southern point of the compass. The tortoise, along with the snake, ruled the north, and the dragon symbolized the east.


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