Kirin in Modern Society

The Kirin, like many a mythical creature, has survived over the centuries (in this case nearly 2,000 years!) and has ended up in various modern settings and symbols.  The most influential has probably been the name itself!  When giraffes first walked onto Asian shores, people thought that they were the legendary Kirin.  Because of this, the current word for giraffe in Japanese to this day is actually still "kirin."  Another of the most well-known appearances may be readily recognized by beer-drinkers; the Kirin Brewery's logo depicts a Kirin in mid-flight.
The creature is not limited to just alcohol and phonetics, though.  It frequently appears in various forms of literature and media, especially in Japanese anime cartoons, manga comics, and other Asian literary works.  Aside from that, the Kirin has been used as inspiration in various trading card games, as well, such as Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokemon.


The Kirin Dance

Aside from media, the Kirin also lives on in various traditional Chinese dances, such as seen in the following videos.  This dance is an alteration of the Lion Dance that later became its own style.  It was originally a custom of ancient times, and seen as a sort of ritual that was used to ward off against violence and invaders, as well as to promote good will and fortune for the coming year.  It is mostly celebrated during Spring Festivals (and is especially popular in the city of Haifeng), and competitions have developed with multiple teams developing their own, unique interpretation of the dance.  However, in every style the performers are positioned in the costume the same.  One person will wield the puppet Kirin head, and control its mouth and eyes, as well as improv various colorful interactions with the audience.  The other person that is apart of the costume will hold the Kirin's tail and follow the performer carrying the head.  It is this performer's duty to maintain a fluid motion that conveys proper movement.

 Just as with the Eastern Unicorn, the Kirin likes to pop up time and time again in Asian culture, but what the Kirin seems to offer that the Western Unicorn does not, is a richer depth.  Unlike the "traditional" unicorn, the Kirin inspires wisdom, fortune, and the pursuit of justice.  It represents a rich history of symbolism that links itself all the way back to what can be considered the birth of the written language.  Where the unicorn stands out as a majestic, horned horse, the Kirin stands apart as a cultural symbol.

1 comment:

  1. I love this section linking Kirin to modern characters! Often we see myths all around us and don't even realize it!