This photo is my response to the Travel Photo Challenge: Animals
Okay Im cheating a little with my mythic animal, but she is so magnificent I couldn’t resist sharing her. This shot shows a female Shi shi, stone lion, or lion guardian in the Forbidden City. I took it while staying in Beijing back in 2004, after walking and camping along the Great Wall for 8 days. It was so strange to suddenly be amongst such opulence after being immersed in the very rural mountains, for what had felt like a lifetime.
Almost all the other tourists I was brushing shoulders with here were Chinese, so I stood out a bit with my ‘bird nose’ which had fascinated the children we met up in the mountains! The children all wanted to touch our noses, as if they couldn’t believe they were real, or perhaps for good luck. In a similar way people were touching the Lion Guardians for luck and protection 🙂 You can see the most popular spots for rubbing, by the lack of gilding on the claws and on the cubs paws and head.
The female guardian is always on the left of the doorway looking from the outside, and she represents the circle of life, with the tiny fierce cub beneath her claws. The male holds an embroidered ball representing power or the flower of life. He protects the building’s structure while our lady lion protects the people within the building. I just think it is such beautiful embodied symbolism. Hope you enjoy!