"Mythical creatures have a long history in Chinese culture, and have been a recurring theme in artistic creation.
An ancient China, farmers and hunters explained natural and social phenomena through stories about deities and mythical creatures. These myths were transmitted by word of mouth, and eventually became the subject of religious worship, superstition and folklore. An integral part of Chinese culture, these tales have gone on to inspire artists for centuries.
Unique in their appearance, character and symbolic significance, the mythical creatures of Chinese folklore were first recorded in books such as Shan Hai Jing and Er Ya. They were thought to possess magical powers and were associated with prosperity, disaster or, in some cases, the birth of sages. For example, before Confucius was born, it was said that a qilin — a mythical beast with dragon-like features — appeared and delivered a jade book."