Lùduān (甪端) or jiǎo duān (角端, also chio-tuan or kioh twan), is a Chinese legendary animal looking like a deer with green coat, a horse's tail and a single horn. It can travel a distance of 18,000 li in a day (6000-9000 km or 3600-5500 miles) and speak in languages of foreign countries. Luduan appears in the time of an enlightened rule and presents the monarch with a message. A luduan once appeared to Genghis Khan and convinced him to abandon his efforts to conquer India.
According to the biographies of Wuhuan Xianbei, the Mongols use the horns of jiao duan for the production of compound bows, called "unicorn bows" (角端弓 jiǎo duān gōng)
Genghis Khan and the unicorn
In 1218, after Genghis Khan occupied Beijing, many Chinese joined him, willing to fight against the Jin dynasty, which ruled in Northern China. Among them was a Buddhist monk Yelü Chucai (耶律楚材). He was the last living member of the fallen Khitan dynasty of Liao, destroyed by the Jin a century before. Having heard about this, Genghis Khan said to him:
Liao and Jin have been enemies for generations; I have taken revenge for you.
To which Chucai answered:
My father and grandfather have both respectfully served the Jin. How can I, as a subject and a son, be so insincere in heart as to consider my sovereign and my father as enemies?
The ruler liked this answer and was so impressed with the scholar, he quickly made him his personal secretary and advisor. The Mongols planned to raze the whole of Jin to the ground and slaughter the population to make room for pastures for their horses. But Chucai argued it would be more profitable to give the people protection instead, tax them and draft into army, fueling further conquest. In everything he did, he tried to protect the people and to civilize his cruel masters.
In 1224 the Mongol army had just subdued the Khwarezm Empire and was preparing to pursue its ruler, Sultan Jalal ad-Din into India. But when they were nearing the mountain pass called the Iron Gate, they were approached by a strange creature. It looked like a deer but had green coat, the tail of a horse and a single horn on its head. It spoke to the Khan's bodyguards:
You shall proceed no further. Go back! Go back!
Genghis Khan summoned his trusted advisor to explain the event. Yelü Chucai answered:
This animal is called jiao duan. It travels 18,000 li in a single day and knows the languages of the four yi. It is also gentle and abhors bloodshed. Your Majesty, for four years you have been waging war in the west. Doubtlessly, the Heavens take no pleasure in the suffering of so many people and have sent this messenger to express you their will. If you conform, you will grant life to so many unhappy people and obtain boundless felicity.
Genghis Khan immediately gave signal to return.
- Geoffrey Humble. Genghis Khan versus the Unicorn. 29 March 2016