Monday, November 17, 2014

Imperial Guardian Lions Guarding What and With Which Paw?

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

Amboy, CA - Having traveled throughout China and Taiwan, I have learned about Chinese architecture.  One of my favorite aspects of Chinese architecture are imperial guardian lions (Mandarin: shi).

I was surprised to see two guardian lions guarding much not of anything out in the desert just outside "downtown" Amboy on the south side of US66.  This is the male, the female is to the left of the male outside the frame, as she should be.

Imperial Guardian Lion with Amboy Crater in Background
If you did not know much about imperial guardian lions, you would not have noticed the apparent mistake in this statue.  You need to look close.

As can be seen here, the male lion has its left paw resting on the ball.  This is incorrect.  As said at Wikipedia:
The male lion has its right front paw on a type of cloth ball simply called an "embroidered ball" (xiù qiú, 绣球), which is sometimes carved with a geometric pattern (coincidentally, resembling the figure called "Flower of Life" in the New Age movement).
Here is a photo of a male imperial guardian lion statue photo taken in Wuhan, China.

Ball is under right paw, closest to door (Wuhan, China).

So, whoever went to the trouble of putting those guardian lions out in the Amboy desert, they just quite missed getting it correct. mentioned above, there was a female guardian lion to the left of the male lion, as these lions always come in pairs.  However, I did not notice whether the sculptor had the young lion under the wrong paw of the female.  As can be seen in this photo from the Forbidden City in Beijing, the female lions has a cub under the closer (left) paw to the male.

Lion Cub Under the Left Paw of Female Guardian Lion

Guess I will have to go back to Amboy some time to see if they got this correct.

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