When you first come to Beijing, it might be a little difficult to even register all the new and strange things you see, hear and smell around the city. After a while it is easy to just become numb to all the strange things going on, but that is a huge pity, because then you would lose out on a lot of fascinating things that make living in Beijing the fun thing it is.
One of the most distinct features are the stone lions that seem to be guarding many buildings here. But what exactly are they and why are they there?
Stone Guardian Lions, shíshī (石狮) – often mistakenly referred to as “Foo Dogs” – were traditionally made of marble, granite, iron or bronze and were placed outside of imperial palaces, imperial tombs, government offices, temples, the homes of the wealthy for protection. If you’ve seen these lions in Beijing recently, you might notice that they now tend to grace modern establishments and pretty much anywhere else willing to pay for a replica (which can be easily made from concrete and resin). Upon close inspection, you’ll notice that the lions are not identical – the female has its left paw placed upon a playful cub, symbolising the cycle of life, while the male has his right paw upon a ball, xiùqiú (绣球), often carved with a geometric pattern that Westerners have dubbed the “Flower of Life”. The female lion protects those who dwell within, while the male protects the structure itself. According to traditional fēngshui (风水), when an observer looks out from the entrance of a building, the lions should be facing in the same direction, with the male on the left and the female on the right.
Stay tuned for our next update on things in Beijing cityscape.
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