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Chinese Stone Lions

In China, the lion is regarded as the king of all animals. It is for this reason that stone lions are a common decoration for many pieces of Chinese architecture.

Lions are placed in front of palaces, mansions, houses and tombs in order to guard against evil as it is believed lions represent auspiciousness, bravery and power. However, there were some strict rules about stone lions in ancient times. A male lion must be placed on the left side of a gate with its right paw on a ball, symbolising its power. A female lion was put on the right side of a gate with its left paw playing with a small cub, symbolising affection.

In Chinese history, five dynasties built imperial palaces in Beijing. Therefore, a large quantity of stone lions of various types which represent power and authority sit in and around Beijing. The largest pair stands in front of Tian'anmen Gate, while the oldest pair is guarding the entrance to the Altar of Land and Grain. The balustrades of Lugou Bridge are carved with countless stone lions of various poses and expressions.

The stone lions we see today were mostly carved during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Stone lions carved during these two dynasties are considered to be rather mild. Fierce-looking stone lions carved in Han and Tang dynasties(618-907) can be found only in Xi'an, another ancient capital.

Nowadays, you also can see stone lion in front of banks, office buildings, parks or even in the street. It's said that lion like legendary luminous pearls with many stone lions have a moveable stone pearl in the mouth.