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Malindi, Kenya: The mythical Qilin


Its tread is careful and gracious. It walks on grass without disturbing a single blade; its gentle nature prevents it from eating meat or hurting other living things. However, should a pure person be threatened by a villain, its peaceful disposition turns into a ferociousness of such intensity, that its relentless flames and furious powers make even the bravest hide in fear.

giraffe-zhengheThe Qilin has the head of a dragon, the body of a tiger, scales of a fish, hooves of a horse, and the tail of an ox. The Chinese believe it to be a symbol of protection, prosperity, and longevity. Also, the Qilin only appears when there is a great leader around. Legends say it appeared in the garden of the mighty Yellow Emperor and that its presence announced the birth of Confucius.

No, can it be…?
Imagine the look on the face of the greatest seafarer in China’s history, Zheng He, when he suddenly stumbled across a Qilin at the port of Malindi in Kenya in 1414. Offering gold, silver, porcelain, and silk to the Swahili people, the admiral got to take home zebras, camels, ivory, and most importantly, two Qilins. The Qilins were regarded as a sign of support from the heavens for his emperor Yongle.

The British, who would colonize Kenya some 500 years later, would refer to the Qilins as giraffes.

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