If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I love animals. Shang-Chi begins with people acting like animals on a bad day, but once in the village of Ta Lo (大羅 dà luó), East Asian animals come to play.
First, if you see any carp, remember that carp can become dragons.
In the film, the first creature we see is Morris. The faceless creature is based on the Chinese Dijiang (帝江, Dì jiāng). According to the Cryptid Wiki, “It lives in a perpetual state of confusion and causes chaos wherever it goes.”
Once through the car-eating bamboo forest, we see birds that are on fire. Traditionally, the Chinese phoenix (鳳凰;fènghuáng; Japanese Hō-ō), is not associated with fire although the Japanese Hō-ō is, but it is considered the opposite of the dragon in terms of yin and yang. You’ll event see the dragon and the phoenix portrayed at weddings because this represents a harmonious relationship between the husband and wife.
There is (spoiler alert) a white dragon. In English, the dragon is called, the Great Protector, who is a guardian dragon that protects the village of Ta Lo. In Chinese, the dragon is called shénlóng (神龍 or 神龍大羅喚 shénlóng dà luó) in the movie which means god/spirit dragon. White dragons (Bái lóng 白龍) were one of the five colored dragon “kings” canonized by Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty and were supposed to represent virtuous and pure kings.
Before the dragon, you’ll see a nine-tailed fox (狐狸精, húlijīng, for fox spirit and 九尾狐, jiǔwěihú, for nine-tailed fox or in Japanese, 九尾の狐, yūbinokitsune). Foxes are considered shape-shifters. Some depictions have them with many heads as well.
Those “weird” horses are Qilin (麒麟, Qílín, or kirin in Japanese). You might be familiar with them because of the Japanese beer, Kirin. That’s one Japanese version. Here’s a statue version.
- Shang-Chi and those Rings
- Shang-Chi and What’s in a Name?
- Review of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
The stone lions or shishi (石獅; shíshī or in Japan Shishi 獅子, lion or Komainu (狛犬, lion dogs)) are often depicted in pairs are guardians of the gate. Traditionally one is female and the other is male. The male is on the left and often shown playing with a ball. The female is shown playing with a cub.
I wonder if we’ll see more of these creatures in the future MCU?