The Asiatic journal and monthly register for British and foreign India, China and Australasia, vol. 2Edit

English originalEdit

Unicorns in Asia.—A writer in the Universel, whom we suspect to be M. Klaproth, adverting to the information obtained by the late Major Latter[1], respecting the existence of an animal in Tibet closely resembling the unicorn of the ancients, has revived the belief of naturalists in the existence of this hitherto fabulous animal, by adducing testimonies thereto from oriental writings. He remarks that, previous to Major Latter's report, the Catholic missionaries, who returned to Europe from China, by way of Tibet and Nepal, in the seventeenth century, mentioned that the unicorn was found in that part of the great desert which bounds China to the west, where they crossed the great wall; that Capt. Turner, when travelling in Tibet, was informed by the raja of Boutan, that he had one of these animals alive; and that Bell, in his Travels to Peking, describes a unicorn which was found on the southern frontier of Siberia. He adds: "the great Tibetan-Mongol dictionary, entitled Mingghi ghiamtso, a copy of which is deposited in the Royal Library (at Paris), mentions the unicorn, under the name of serou; and another work, not less authentic, the Geographical Dictionary of Tibet and Central Asia, printed at Peking by order of the emperor Këen-lung, where it describes a district in the province of Kham, in Tibet, named Sera-zeong, explains this name by 'river of unicorns,' because, adds the author, many of these animals are found there. In the history of the Mongol-Khans published and translated by Mr. J. J. Schmidt, at St. Petersburgh, we find the following fact stated: 'Genghiz Khan, having subjected all Tibet, in 1206, commenced his march for Hindustan (Enedkek). As he ascended mount Jadanarung, he beheld a beast approaching him of the deer kind, of the species called serou, which have a single horn at the top of the head; it fell on its knees thrice before the monarch, as if to pay respect to him. Every one was astonished at this incident; the monarch exclaimed, "the empire of Hindustan is, we are assured, the country where are born the majestic Buddhas and Bodhisatwas, as well as the potent Bogdas and princes of antiquity: what can be the meaning, then, of this animal, incapable of speech, saluting me like a man?" Upon this, he returned to his own country." 'This story (continues M. Klaproth) is also related by Mahomedan authors who have written the life of Genghiz; something of the kind must, therefore, have taken place. Possibly some of the Mongol conqueror's suite may have taken a unicorn, which Genghiz thus employed, to gain a pretext for abstaining from an expedition which promised no success."

When we consider that eight years have elapsed since the account of Major Latter was given, and that, notwithstanding our increased opportunities of intercourse with Tibet, no fact has since transpired which supplies a confirmation of that account, except the obtaining a supposed horn of the supposed unicorn, we cannot participate in these renewed hopes.

  1. See Asiat. Journ. vol xi. p. 154.

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