Chinese Mythical Creatures

Epic Tales of China: 20 Chinese Mythical Creatures and Their Legendary Stories

Chinese Mythical creatures have fascinated people for generations. They have incredible powers and complex stories that are part of cultures worldwide. Chinese mythical creatures are particularly interesting due to their unique characteristics and rich symbolism. In this article, we will explore 20 Chinese mythical creatures and the stories behind them. This will give you a glimpse into the mythology that has shaped Chinese culture for thousands of years.


Chinese Dragons (龙)

Chinese Dragons
Appearance: Chinese dragons, which are also known as loong, long, or lung, are typically depicted as snake-like creatures with four legs.[1] They have multiple animal-like forms such as turtles and fish.
These mythical creatures are known for their immense power and are often accompanied by lightning and thunder while they fly.
Mythological Stories: Dragons are important in Chinese mythology, representing power, wisdom, and good fortune. The Zuo Zhuan, a document from the pre-Qin era, is recognized as the oldest book to mention dragons. According to the text, dragons were sighted on the fringes of the capital city of the State of Jin (晋国) during the 29th year of Lu Zhaogong’s (鲁昭公) reign. The depiction of these dragons is believed to have been shaped by a variety of factors, such as serpents and alligators. [2]
In ancient times, several stories were associated with dragons. One of them is Yinglong, who helped defeat Chi You and tamed the flood with Da Yu. These stories show how dragons played a significant role in shaping Chinese culture and their impact on natural phenomena.
Cultural Significance: Chinese dragons have deep roots in Chinese culture. They symbolize powerful and positive forces and are associated with good luck, prosperity, and success. For example, Yinglong has control over water.
In the past, the Chinese emperor was associated with the Chinese dragon, which was a symbol of his authority.
Dragons are still important in Chinese culture today, influencing art, buildings, celebrations, and even the Chinese zodiac. People believe they bring luck and wealth. They’re also popular as plush toys. For example, I’ve seen many dragon toys on a website called PlushThis. I was surprised to find festive-looking oriental dragons there. I bought some and put them in my house. They not only make me happy when I look at them, but they’re also supposed to bring good luck!
You may also like Chinese dragon plush
Chinese dragons


Chinese dragons


Phoenix (凤凰)

Appearance: The Phoenix is a magnificent creature with bright, multicolored feathers. It has a body similar to a pheasant, and its wings are like those of the rock.[3] Its tail feathers are red, blue, yellow, white, and black - these five colors are considered sacred.[4] In Chinese, the Phoenix is called Fenghuang.
Mythological Stories: The Phoenix is an immortal bird in Chinese mythology. Its rare appearance signifies a time of peace that coincides with the rise of a new emperor.[5] The Phoenix was first mentioned during the Shang dynasty in oracle-bone inscriptions.
Legend has it that the Fenghuang appeared before the death of the legendary Yellow Emperor (Huangdi), who ruled China in the 27th century BCE.[5]
Cultural Significance: The Phoenix holds significant cultural and symbolic importance in Chinese belief systems. It represents balance and harmony between the essential energies of the cosmos. The appearance of Fenghuang is considered a good sign, indicating prosperity and harmony, especially during the enthronement of a new emperor.
When I was a child, I was fascinated by the Phoenix's beauty and the stories surrounding it. The colorful feathers and the tales of its appearances during significant historical events made a lasting impression on me. As one of the Chinese mythical creatures, the Phoenix perfectly embodies the richness and depth of Chinese culture and mythology.


Nine-tailed Fox (九尾狐)

Nine-tailed Fox

Appearance: This Chinese mythical creature is often portrayed with bright red or orange fur and has eyes that change color with its emotions, making it all the more captivating. Its most recognizable trait is the nine tails, which symbolize its age and wisdom.
Mythological Stories: The Nine-tailed Fox is a spirit that has magical powers and can transform into a beautiful man or woman.[6] It uses its supernatural abilities and alluring appearance to control and manipulate people, leading them into its mystical realm. The older and more powerful the fox is, the more tails it has.
Cultural Significance: The Nine-tailed Fox is a mythical creature from Chinese folklore that represents wisdom, protection, and guidance. It is also prominent in Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese cultures.
The TV series "Legend of the Fox in Qingqiu" portrays the Nine-tailed Fox as a captivating creature. The show features many foxes with unique personalities that can transform into human forms and express a wide range of emotions. This depiction provides viewers with a chance to imagine what the Nine-tailed Fox might be like, adding depth and intrigue.
If you are also interested in nine-tailed foxes, then you can check out this adorable fox from PlushThis!

Nine-tailed Fox

Qilin (麒麟)


Appearance: The Qilin is a creature of legend, often called the Chinese unicorn. It has an interesting and unique appearance, with a single horn on its forehead, a yellow belly, and a multicolored back. Its body is similar to that of a deer, while its tail is like an ox's.[7] Some descriptions also include the Qilin being covered in fish scales or flames.
Mythological Stories: The Qilin is a majestic creature from Chinese mythology that is said to live in the heavens and be close to the gods.
It is not often seen, but when it is, it is believed to signify the birth or death of an important ruler or sage.
The first Qilin was seen in the garden of the legendary Yellow Emperor, Huangdi, in 2697 BCE.[8] A Qilin also reportedly appeared before the birth of the great philosopher Confucius. It produced a jade tablet that predicted the child's future greatness.
Cultural Significance: The Qilin is a creature from Chinese mythology that represents good fortune, prosperity, and wisdom. It is highly respected as a symbol of cultural pride and heritage and often appears in Chinese festivals and other cultural events. The Qilin is believed to bring good luck, wealth, and triumph over evil.


Pixiu (貔貅)


Appearance: The Pixiu is a mythical creature that has the head of a Chinese dragon, the body of a lion, and the legs of a Qilin. Some depictions even show it with wings. Its eyes bulge out, and it has a large mouth with fangs.[9]
Mythological Stories: In Chinese mythology, there was a celestial beast called Pixiu. Its job was to find and collect valuable treasures like jewels and gold from the earth and bring them back to heaven.[10] The Jade Emperor was the one who gave Pixiu this task.
However, as the legend goes, Pixiu once broke a celestial law by defecating on the Celestial Court grounds. As a punishment, the Jade Emperor sealed its rear end, limiting its diet to only gold. Therefore, Pixiu can only eat wealth in the form of gold and cannot get rid of it.
Cultural Significance: Pixiu, a mythical creature from China, is believed to bring good luck, protection, and wealth. It's popular among entrepreneurs and people who want financial success.
Pixiu is also known for its ability to ward off evil spirits and ghosts. In Feng Shui, people use Pixiu to attract abundance and good luck. You can often find statues of Pixiu in stores and banks because they are believed to bring prosperity.
Many people, especially older people, wear Pixiu strings for good luck, especially for financial success.


Jiangshi - Vampires or Zombie (僵尸)

Jiangshi - Vampires

Appearance: The Jiangshi is a unique character in Chinese stories. Unlike the vampires we see in Western movies, the Jiangshi is portrayed as a stiff body dressed in official clothing from the Qing dynasty and moves by hopping around with its arms outstretched.
This image of a hopping vampire is both creepy and endearing, and is quite different from the graceful vampires of Hollywood.
Mythological Stories: There are several reasons why a body might come back to life, according to Chinese mythology. These include the use of mystical practices to bring back the dead, a spirit taking over a deceased body, a corpse gaining enough yang qi to revive, or a soul remaining in its body due to an unnatural death, suicide, or simply to create chaos.[11]
These narratives contribute to the complexity and fascination of the Jiangshi, making it a compelling figure in the world of Chinese mythical beings.
Cultural Significance: Jiangshi stories have led to many movies and books in Hong Kong and East Asia.
When I was in my primary school, I found these vampire-like movies both spooky and fun. But after seeing a really scary Jiangshi movie, I couldn’t watch them anymore.


Taotie (饕餮)


Appearance: The Taotie is usually shown as an animal-like mask with a full face that’s the same on both sides. It’s known for its big, bulging eyes and artistic versions of eyebrows, horns, a ridge on its nose, ears, and two legs on the sides.[12] Interestingly, the Taotie usually doesn’t have a lower jaw, which makes it look unique and a bit spooky.
Mythological Stories: The Taotie is an old monster that was often depicted on bronze and other items around 1000 BC.[13] It’s one of the “four bad creatures” in Chinese stories.
The Taotie is famous for its endless hunger and is usually shown as a beast that is always eating. Its name means “glutton,” which shows this trait.
Cultural Significance: The Taotie design has different meanings: it could be a symbol, a guardian, or a symbolic way to show the powers of nature.
You can often see this design on old Chinese bronze containers from the Shang and Zhou periods, showing how important it is in their culture.
Even though the Taotie is known to be scary, it’s also linked with richness, birth, and power.


Jade Rabbit (玉兔)

Jade Rabbit

Appearance: The Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, is a lovely character that looks like a rabbit. It has white, shiny fur that’s as smooth as jade.
This Chinese mythical heavenly animal is usually shown making herbs with a tool on the moon.[14]
Mythological Stories: A story tells that three gods came down to Earth pretending to be old men. They wanted to see which animals were kind and welcoming. The rabbit, even though it didn’t have much, shared its food and offered a place to rest to these old men. The gods were moved by the rabbit’s kindness and generosity, so they showed who they really were.
As a thank you, they took the rabbit to live with them in the sky, on the moon, forever. People believe that this rabbit, known as the Jade Rabbit, is up there making a special potion for eternal life.
Cultural Significance: The Jade Rabbit is a legendary creature from China that stands for selfless acts and sacrifices.
It’s closely linked to the Mid-Autumn Festival, a big Chinese holiday. During this festival, people gather to admire the moon, share their deepest wishes, and eat special foods.
One of these foods is the mooncake, which often has a picture of the Jade Rabbit making medicine on the moon.
I believe the bunny from PlushThis resembles the Jade Rabbit, being chubby and easy to hold. If you’re looking to share the story of the Jade Rabbit from Chinese mythology with others, this bunny would be an ideal item to use.


Golden Crow (金乌)

Golden Crow

Appearance: The Golden Crow, also called Jinwu or Yangwu, is usually shown as a certain kind of bird called a corvid. Even though corvids are usually black, the Golden Crow is often shown as red.
It’s special because it’s often drawn with three legs. The Golden Crow is shown with a bright golden light around it, which represents its link to the sun.
Mythological Stories: In simpler terms, Chinese legends tell a story about ten sun crows. Each crow was a sun god and the son of Di Qun and Xi He, ancient gods according to the Classic of Mountains and Seas.[15]
Every day, one crow would fly around the world in a carriage driven by their mother, Xi He, to give life to the earth. But one day, all the crows flew up together, causing a great heat that dried up the seas and killed plants.
To save the world, the Jade Emperor asked a great archer, Hou Yi, to shoot down the extra suns. In the end, only one sun crow was left.
Cultural Significance: This Chinese mythical creature is very important in their culture and stands for the sun. You can find it in many legends, old money, and royal clothes.
The tale of the Golden Crow and its siblings warns us about the risks of not following rules and the need for harmony and order.


Monkey King - Sun Wukong (孙悟空)

Monkey King - Sun Wukong

Appearance: Sun Wukong, also called the Monkey King, looks quite different from other Chinese mythical beings.
He was born from a magical stone and initially looked like a naked macaque. But after serving the Buddhist monk Tang Sanzang, he transformed into a warrior.
Now he wears a golden chainmail shirt, a cap with phoenix feathers, special cloud-walking boots, and carries an eight-ton staff that can even shrink down to the size of a needle.
Mythological Stories: The story of this Chinese mythical creature, a character with great strength and the power to change into 72 different things, first showed up in the adventure book Journey to the West during the Song Dynasty.[16]
Wukong caused a lot of trouble in the Heavenly Palace and was eventually beaten by the Buddha and trapped under a mountain for 500 years. Later, a Buddhist monk named Tang Sanzang freed him and Wukong became his protector on a trip to get Buddhist scriptures from India.
Cultural Significance: Sun Wukong is a character with many sides. He can be disrespectful but also devoted, tricky but also loyal, rough but also wise. He’s often seen as a symbol of standing up against authority. His character is still popular in Chinese culture and is often seen in books, movies, and cartoons.


Baize (白泽)


Appearance: The Baize is a Chinese mythical creature that looks like a white tiger or lion. It has a long body, a fluffy tail, and big, bright eyes.
People believe that the Baize can see into human thoughts and feelings.[17] It also has wings, which represent its power to fly and travel across the sky.
Mythological Stories: In Chinese myths, the Baize is a very wise creature that can talk to different beings, including people. There’s a well-known story about the Baize and the Yellow Emperor, who is an important person in Chinese history.
The Baize met the Yellow Emperor and told him about 11,520 monsters that were causing trouble. After this meeting, the Yellow Emperor made the Bái Zé Tú, a book that describes all the supernatural creatures in the world and how to protect yourself from them.
Cultural Significance: The Baize is a Chinese mythical creature that people often link with protection from bad spirits. It’s also seen as a sign of wisdom and knowledge. People believe that meeting this creature brings happiness and luck.


Four-eyed bird (重明鸟)

Four-eyed bird

Appearance: The Four-eyed bird, or Cangjie, is a special bird from Chinese stories. It’s called the Four-eyed bird because it has four eyes.
These extra eyes let it see the world in a special way. It can see patterns, shapes, and lines that other creatures can’t see.
Mythological Stories: Cangjie was the Yellow Emperor’s official record-keeper. According to a legend, he went into the wild to clear his head before starting his big project of creating a way to record important details.
While he was in nature, he noticed patterns in things like trees, animals, stars, planets, and buildings. He turned these patterns into symbols, which became the writing system used by Chinese speakers everywhere.[18]
Cultural Significance: Cangjie is a respected figure in Chinese mythology because of his important contributions to the culture. He created a writing system, which is considered a valuable gift as it allows people to record and share knowledge.
The modern method of typing Chinese characters on a computer is named after him - the “Cangjie input method”.
He is also known for his four-eyed vision, which represents the ability to tell truth from lies. This makes him a symbol of wisdom and good judgment.


Jiao Ren (鲛人)

Jiao Ren

Appearance: The Jiao Ren are like mermaids in Chinese mythical stories. They have a human top and a fish bottom. People know them for making really beautiful cloth. They’re not just like Western mermaids, but they’re also great at crafting.
Mythological Stories: In Chinese mythical stories, there are creatures called Jiao Ren who live in the South China Sea. They make cloth all day, and it’s believed that their tears become pearls when they cry. The cloth they make is known as “Dragon Yarn.” It’s as white as frost and doesn’t get wet, even in water.
Some stories say that these Chinese mermaids sell Dragon Yarn to humans. The place where they do this trading is the illusion that people sometimes see.
Cultural Significance: This Chinese mythical creature is a symbol for taking care of the sea. They are often linked with being pure, beautiful, and protecting sea creatures. Their tears can turn into valuable pearls, showing their strong bond with the ocean.
The Jiao Ren’s skill making lovely waterproof fabrics represents their peaceful relationship with the sea and their control over its resources.


Kunpeng (鲲鹏)


Appearance: The Kunpeng is a fascinating creature that looks like a mix of a fish and a bird. It's body looks like a fish, but instead of fins, it has wings like a bird. It has a beak like a bird, and its tail fins are horizontal and look like a bird’s tail feathers.
The Kunpeng is often said to be huge, with wings so large that they can cover the sun and cause storms when it flaps them.
Mythological Stories: In Chinese mythical stories, it's special because it can change from a big fish to a huge bird. The story says that the Kun can swim deep in the sea and then turn into the Peng bird to fly far in the sky. This amazing change is a symbol of how people can do anything they set their minds to.
Cultural Significance: The Kunpeng is a creature from Chinese mythical stories that people often talk about when they want to inspire others to better themselves. It’s known for its ability to change and adjust, which encourages people to work hard to achieve their dreams.
In short, the Chinese mythical creature represents the endless possibilities that we all have within us. So, when you face a tough situation, think of the Kunpeng and its journey from the deep sea to the wide sky. Like this amazing creature, you also have the strength to change, grow, and reach new heights.

Qiongqi (穷奇)

Appearance: Qiongqi is often pictured as a creature with a body like a tiger or lion and bird wings. Some stories say it has a head that looks like a human’s, which makes it look scary.[19]
People in Shaanxi, China, say they’ve seen a Qiongqi that looks like a tiger with wings. But in Mongolia, they say this creature looks like a cow with spikes like a hedgehog.
Mythological Stories: Qiongqi is a mythical creature from old Chinese stories, mainly found in a book called Shan Hai Jing or The Classic of Mountains and Seas. It’s known as a scary monster that likes to eat people, starting with their heads.
There’s another description of Qiongqi in the same book but in a different section called Western Mountains Classic. Here, Qiongqi looks like a bull with pointy hair, which is quite different from the earlier description in the Inner Sea Classic.
Cultural Significance: Qiongqi is mentioned in old Chinese writings. It shows their belief in the balance of good and evil. Qiongqi is a symbol of evil that reminds people to stay alert and stick to what’s right.
Today, Qiongqi is still shown in different art forms like books, paintings, and new versions of old stories.


Tiangou (天狗)


Appearance: Tiangou is a mythical creature from China that is often shown as a black dog or a heavenly meteor.
People believe it can eat the sun or moon during an eclipse. Interestingly, Tiangou can also appear as a fox with a white head, symbolizing peace and calmness.
Mythological Stories: There’s a famous tale about a great archer named Houyi. He was so good that he shot down nine suns. For this, the Queen Mother of the West, Wangmu Niang Niang, gave him a pill that could make him live forever. But before he could take it, his wife Chang Er ate it because she wanted to stay young forever. After eating the pill, she started to float away.
A black dog that Houyi was taking care of licked up what was left of the pill and chased after Chang Er. The dog got bigger and bigger, and finally, it swallowed the moon and Chang Er.
When Wangmu Niang Niang found out about this, she caught the dog and made it the guardian of heaven’s gates. That’s how the dog became known as Tiangou.[20]
Cultural Significance: This Chinese mythical creature stands for both good and bad things. People think of it as a guardian of the sky that brings peace and balance.
Even though it’s known as a creature that eats stars and planets, Tiangou is also seen as a peaceful spirit that protects us from problems in life.


Ao (鳌)


Appearance: The Ao is said to be of immense size, with a shell that stretches as far as the eye can see. Its body is robust and sturdy,and its skin is often depicted as being covered in scales.
Mythological Stories: During the era when the world was being shaped, it was thought that Ao made the South China Sea its home. Stories tell of Nüwa, the goddess who birthed humanity, utilizing the four legs of Ao as pillars to mend the heavens following a disaster. An additional myth implies that Ao continues to exist, bearing the three islands of the Eight Immortals - Penglai, Fangzhang, and Yingzhou - on its back.[21]
Cultural Significance: The Ao is a symbol of steadiness and fortune. Its tale with Nüwa underscores the significance of selflessness for the collective benefit. The impact of this mythical beast from China is evident in the Bixi figure, a fusion of dragon and turtle, found in royal Chinese artistry.




Appearance: The Bashe is a huge creature that looks like a python. It's often shown as a giant snake that can swallow an elephant whole in one go.
Mythological Stories: The Bashe is a Chinese mythical creature known for its insatiable appetite, particularly for elephants. It's often used in stories to illustrate human greed by comparing it to the legendary serpent's voracious appetite. The Bashe is associated with the phrase "ba-snake gulping down an elephant", which means "inordinately greedy; extremely insatiable".
Cultural Significance: The Bashe represents the complexities of morality, justice, and corruption. It teaches us that even the darkest stories have a place for evil characters. In simpler terms, the Bashe is a reminder that good and bad exist in all tales, even the most unsettling ones.


Black Tortoise(玄武)

Black Tortoise

Appearance: The Black Tortoise, usually shown as a tortoise mixed with a snake, stands for lasting power and intelligence. Its dark and tough look, which is related to water, gives feelings of steadiness and calmness.
Mythological Stories: There’s a tale that portrays the Black Tortoise with a snake on its shell, as it was believed that turtles could only reproduce with snakes. In the renowned novel ‘Journey to the West’, the Black Tortoise was portrayed as a northern king who had two subordinates, a “Tortoise General” and a “Snake General”.[22]
Cultural Significance: The Black Tortoise is a very important symbol in Chinese culture. It’s one of four special animals that stand in different directions and protect China. It’s known for living a long time, being smart, and keeping things safe. People often show it in art and connect it with water and stars, which makes it even more important.


Bifang Niao(毕方鸟)

Bifang Niao

Appearance: The Bifang Niao is a unique bird that's often shown with only one leg. It looks like a crane, has red markings on a green body, and a white beak. The bird's name comes from the sound it makes.
Mythological Stories: The Bifang Niao was a sacred bird in ancient Chinese mythology. It was believed to be a companion of the "Yellow Emperor" Huangdi, and was considered a symbol of good luck. Additionally, the Bifang Niao was associated with the warning of fires.[23]
Cultural Significance: Birds are important in Chinese culture, and the Bifang Niao is a mythical creature that stands out. It is known for having one leg and is associated with fire.
Sometimes, it is depicted as a three-legged bird, which represents the sun in Chinese mythology. This ties the creature to the natural world and celestial bodies, adding to its cultural significance.


Which Writings Document the Mythical Creatures of China?

There are several ancient texts that document the mythical creatures of China. Three prominent texts include Guideways through Mountains and Seas, Shui Jing Zhu, and Fengshen Yanyi.
  • Guideways through Mountains and Seas was compiled between the fourth and first centuries BCE, and it contains descriptions of hundreds of fantastic beings that reside in mountains, rivers, islands, and seas. This text is considered the most extensive collection of ancient Chinese mythology and shamanistic wisdom.
  • Shui Jing Zhu contains stories that were passed down orally for over a thousand years before they were written down.
  • Fengshen Yanyi is a novel that contains many myths that were transmitted through oral traditions such as drama, dance, and song. These texts offer a fascinating insight into ancient China's beliefs and thoughts.



We've encountered many fascinating mythical creatures during our journey through China. These Chinese mythical creatures are not just stories, they reflect the values, history, and art of the culture. From dragons that control the weather to phoenixes that symbolize harmony, and trickster spirits that represent the balance between good and evil. We invite you to carry their stories with you, and let them inspire and enrich your understanding of a culture that has a rich mystical heritage.





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