Chinese Lore- A Selection of Mythical Fauna (5)

Ao (pronounced ou as in ouch) 

Physical Description:

A massive turtle 

Special Properties:



When Nu Wa mended the hole in the sky, she was said to have broken off the four legs of an Ao to mark the furthest point in the four directions. There are also a legend of there being three mountains where the divine dwell in that are borne on the back of an Ao. 

In the main room of the Imperial Palace in the periods stretching from the Tang Dynasty to the Song Dynasty, there are stone sculptures of a Dragon and an Ao place on the central stone block that acts as a step up to the throne. All scholars who passed the test to become an official of the Court will line up in a queue under this stone block. Only the one who passed the Court Official test with the highest score had the honour of standing in the position facing the head of the Ao figurine. From this, the Chines idiom (one of the special 4 Character phrases) for describing the champion in any endeavour “Be in the sole view of the Ao’s Head” is born. 

Spin turtle

Physical Description:

A turtle with the head of a bird, the beak of an eagle and the tail of a snake

Special Properties:

Its call is akin to wood being split open. Holding onto it can improve hearing in water and facilitate travel to watery depths. 


Fabled animal local to a strange body of water 

Translation Quirk:

Besides the bit about its call being akin to wood being split open, the entire section of Special Properties could be mis-interpretation on my behalf. While I’m confident about some linkage between holding onto it (or wearing if I’m translating the text in a literal sense) and improved hearing (the literal translation would be “make one not deaf”), I’m not at all sure about the travelling in watery depth bit. 

Chong Ming Bird 

Physical Description:

A bird that looks like a chicken but it has two pupils in each eye.  

Special Properties:

Its call is like that of a Phoenix and it has strength. It can fight with large beasts like tigers and wolves. 

Translation Quirks

This bird is probably named for having two pupils to each eye. Chong in Chinese means repeat or double. Ming means bright. 

Yin Yuan 

Physical Description:

A duck-sized bird with a bee-like shape 

Special Properties:

Its sting will kill other birds and beasts as well as withering plants.   

Published by moonlakeku

intermediate Chinese fantasy writer working on her debut series

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