Chinese Lion Guards
Photo: Lion's Press Agency
China is a country full of lions. Pairs of stone lions can often be seen as gate guards in front of many buildings in China. Usually a male lion is on the left with the right paw on a ball - the symbol of unity of the Chinese empire - and a female lion on the right with a cub under the left paw - a symbol of offspring. Another explanation is that the male is guarding the structure and the female protects those dwelling inside the building.
Anyhow, we must say that lions in China often look a little strange. Males and females both have manes and we look a little like dogs. The reason for this might be that we lions didn't live in China. The first lions in China were caught animals brought to China as gifts to the emperor. Artists didn't have many models to base their work on and used dogs instead. At first the lions appeared in front of imperial palaces, emperor's tombs and government buildings. From the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) guardian lions were placed at the entrance to important official buildings and gates. Today they are common at the entrances to restaurants, hotels and other buildings.
It is said that Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, after his birth, pointed to heaven with one hand and to earth with the other and that he was roaring like a lion. If this is true we don't know - lions are not very interested in the birth of humans - but we are very happy that Buddhism esteems the lion as an animal of nobleness and dignity, protecting the truth and keeping off evil. That is what we like to hear. The lions on the photograph are simple souvenirs, bought during a holiday in China. But they look like many of the lions in the country.
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