Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, August 4 – Even if you haven’t been to China you may know about Chinese guardian lions or “shi,” also called stone lions “shi shi” (shrrr shrrr), “Imperial guardian lions,” and in English “foo (fu) dogs or foo (fu) lions.” What most people don’t realize unless they come to China is how common these lions really are! Most large banks and many other places like temples, hotels, businesses, etc. have them at their entrances, whether walk-in doors or drive-in gates. These lions are used because they symbolize power, have traditionally been used to provide protection, and are for decoration. Historically, they have been used for over 2000 years, and were only allowed to be used in official places and homes of high officials. The number of bumps on their heads, representing their hair, indicated rank. As you can see, there are different styles of lions, ranging from more realistic looking to the mythical look. They have their eyes wide open “watching” and their mouths are open as if roaring. Lions are always displayed in pairs and usually there is a male and a female. The male is on the left and has a ball under its paw, which represented the globe and the emperors rulership. The female, on the right, has a cub under her paw. Sometimes, guardian lions are made of other materials like bronze or marble, and in the lower left picture, you can see a modern day inflatable guardian lion! I always thought the common occurrence of lions in Chinese culture was interesting considering lions are not native to China. The use of stone lions supposedly arrived with the introduction of Buddhism.