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Xiezhi (Chinese: 獬豸) is a Chinese legendary creature, which looks like a goat with a single horn on its forehead. It can by nature distinguish the innocent from the guilty and punishes the latter, piercing them with its horn.[1] Gao Yao, the minister of justice in the court of Emperor Shun, was said to have a xiezhi and use it whenever he was in doubt about the guilt of the suspect.[2]

King Xuan of Qi once asked his minister Ai Zi what the xiezhi was. The sage answered that it was a sacred animal kept in the Imperial Court in ancient times. When it saw a corrupt official, it pierced him with its horn and devoured. "If such animal lived today", he added, "it would not need to go hungry."[3]

Xiezhi is regarded in East Asia as an allegory of legal justice.

An old Chinese word 灋 (pinyin: fǎ) means "law" and consists of characters 水 (water), 廌 (zhi) and 去 (to remove, to avoid).


The creature's original name consists of a single pictogram 廌 or 𢊁 (pinyin: zhì). Its synonym is 豸. Later, as monosyllabic words were often replaced with polysyllabic compounds, there started to be used 獬廌 (pinyin: xièzhì) and 解廌 (pinyin: jiězhì). Another name is 神羊 (pinyin: shényáng), which means "divine goat".

In Korea, the creature's name is haetae (해태) or haechi (해치).

The Japanese use the same kanji as the Chinese, but pronounce the names kaichi (獬豸(かいち), alt. kai-tsi, cai-zhi) and shin'yō (神羊(しんよう), alt. sin-you).


References Edit

  1. Yang Fu, Yiwu Zhi
  2. Wang Chong, Lunheng
  3. Su Shi, Ai zi zashuo