An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Kui 夔

Sep 9, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Kui 夔 was, according to the book Shanhaijing 山海經, a beast living on Mt. Liubo 流波山 in the Eastern Sea. Its skin was used by the Yellow Emperor 黃帝 to make a drum to invoke rain and wind. Kui is therefore seen as identical to the thunder gods (leishen 雷神), with a human face and the body of a dragon. The Kui is also described as an animal with only one foot, similar to that of a dragon.

The book Yishi 繹史 quotes from the medical treatise Huangdi neizhuan 黃帝內傳 where it is said that during his war against Chi You 蚩尤 the Yellow Emperor was given kuiniu 夔牛 drums (the Guangchengzi zhuan 廣成子傳 calls them guikui 馗夔) by the Mysterious Maiden 玄女, which was the only means to stop Chi You advancing.

In the Confucian Classic Shangshu 尚書 known as a minister of Yao 堯 and Shun 舜 who instructed his masters in the art of dancing with the help of sounding stones. Kui is thus the real creator of the music of the mode shao 韶.

Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 451.