Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Guardians at the Gate

Image of a Chinese Lion, taken Chinese New Year, 2009, in Kowloon, Hong Kong.Dear Gentle Reader,

As you can see from today's picture, and as I have tried to warn you, Hong Kong can be dangerous.

Here is a wild, Chinese lion, roaming the streets in Hong Kong. 

I do not believe that he has imbibed the East Wind... This is an all-natural, supernatural Chinese lion.

Hong Kong nature at its finest.

When you visit, bring heaps of cash and your humble scribe will intercede and propitiate the lions so that you can return safely to your home country. 

You don't know about this?

Well, bear with me and I'll tell you more. 

I note that not a single guest has been devoured by lions, yet. 

Your scribe must know what he is talking about...

So, on Monday, we met the very handsome lions, Stephen and Stitt, at HSBC in Hong Kong.

Stephen and Stitt, in Hong Kong, as explained, are Western versions or manifestations of the Chinese Imperial Guard Lions.

The Chinese, historicially, have incorporated metal or stone Imperial Guard Lions as architectural ornamentation and security adjuncts, for Imperial and, later, Governmental and high-ranking personage's buildings.

The original Bank of China guard lions, right next door to HSBC, look like...

Image of the original Bank of China (in Hong Kong) male Imperial Guardian Lion, on the left of the entrance.Imperial Guardian Lions, or Fu Lions, are always cast or sculpted, and placed in sets of two. 

The male is (usually) on the left, the female is (usually) on the right.

You can tell the male lion because his paw rests on a ball, the flower of life.

The flower of life is a geometric
al figure of multiple, symmetrical, overlapping circles that yields an overall six-part symmetry (like a hexagon, which is the symbol of HSBC...).

The male lion's job is to protect the physical structure that he guards.

For the geometrically minded, who are curious about the flower of life, the centre of each circle in the flower of life is intersected by six other circles of equal dimensions. So a circle of life could look like this... 

Image of a circle of life, taken from the Wikipedia Commons and based on a PNG created by User:AnonMoos.  Small, clear image of the most common form of the

...But the circle of life is normally mapped onto a sphere, not simply shown flat. Sometimes there are spherical circles of life insided spherical circles of life, going down as small as the children's fingers needed to carve out the last sphere ...

You can tell the female Imperial Guard Lion because her paw is on a lion cub, representing the cycle of life. 

Image of the original Bank of China (in Hong Kong) female Imperial Guardian Lion, on the right of the entrance.

The female lion's job is to protect the occupants of the structure she guards.

But, your humble scribe still prefers Stephen and Stitt. 

Please do not forget them, as many of you assured me you wouldn't, when you visit.

Also, as you saw from the opening picture, wild lions roam the streets of Hong Kong.

Propitiate, by feeding, all the lions by feeding the Imperial guard lions.

But, be careful... This is dangerous work. 

Do not feed them, yourself, when you visit, they have strong jaws, like granite. Once they lock into position, nothing escapes. 

(Remember, it was rumoured that Stitt had the capacity to potentially change into a zombie lion...)

It is best to leave the feedings of guardian lions to trained professionals.

Like your humble scribe.

Coming, literarily, from the fertile crescent (Sepiru, ancient Akkadian Babylonian for scribe) (or, at least, from a fertile imagination), your humble scribe knows a thing or two about lions. 

And your humble scribe is a lawyer, after all; he has heard a lot of lion...

Feeding lions in the wild involves fresh meat, and lots of it.

Feeding "domesticated" bank lions involves fresh funds, cash preferably, and lots of it.

To propitiate these elegant lions with offerings of money (the only food they eat) and to retain possession of all your limbs, give the offerings to your humble scribe, who will ensure it symbolically enters them (via an ATM machine that he has the secret codes to).

Don't you feel safer just knowing me?

Start saving to soothe the wild beasts when you visit.

Chris and Pommes (glaring at your scribe for an important omission) 


Pommes wants to remind all that a can of tuna or salmon, 100% pre-tested by himself for purity and quality control, is an important additive to the standard fare that should be offered bank lions to ensure safe passage in Hong Kong. 

Go figure. OK, Pommes? 

Claws out of my lap, then. Thanks.


Travis Erwin said...

What about the tiger and bears? Oh my.

Jenn Jilks said...

Wonderful to travel and learn about other cultural influences. Thanks for sharing them.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Don't they eat micro florets?

We've missed you at Necky Knoll House - Littl' Nicky says hello.

Cloudia said...

Your elegantly written posts are making me feel a bit lazy, Chris!
I did have lions at temple a while back (link hint). . . LOL! Aloha-


This post you describe is very interesting for me , the circle of life is curiously fascinating.

--Boris wants to know if Pommes will help you walk in Hong Kong streets saved, or perhaps I should bring a dragon with him ? On offer salmon he agrees( he prefer salmon).

Sepiru Chris said...


Those are spread on toast in the morning.


Not really traveling here, mind you... this is my home!


Simple mistake, dear Raph. Easy enough to make when you are peering through a telescope. You missed the accent over the e.

Micro forêts were the words you might have seen on their signs.

Micro forêts, which is French for micro-forest, indicates the quantity of paper currency the lions are demanding. They prefer bullion as they are feeling bearish... a peculiar sensation for a lion, to say the least.

I know. I have been remarkably busy. I will be up to visit soon. Please take no offence. I actually have been to visit, but was too wrapped up in the images to comment, then I had to whisk back to entrepreneurial preparation meetings... Challenging given the current climate.


Elegant! Thank you ever so much, although I think I might be a bit too casual, stylistically, for elegant... in my writing at least... Mind you, in my dinner jacket... well, that is another story!

You ought to never feel lazy, Cloudia.

Finding and compiling those quotations? Two full time jobs alone!

And you are so correct...

Chinese lions at a temple here

and also here...

See... I remember...


I thought you might like the circle of life... I had a strong feeling that that would be something which you would enjoy...


Pommes is not so keen on walking the streets as they are a bit too densely populated for his liking.

150,000 people/square kilometer is a bit much for Pommes.

Also, the customs clearance procedure is a nightmare, so it is unlikely that you would be happy visiting.

Should I or Pommes make it to Florence, we will bring pictures and treats.

Also, should your Mom and her partner come visit us (and entrust the studio and the home to you...), they will be returning with gifts from Pommes to you. Prompt them...


Junosmom said...

I am reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I thought of you today when I read that Hong Kong was number 49 of 53 on "the countries most likely to stick to procedure regardless of circumstances". "That is, [Hong Kong is one of] the cultures best able to tolerate ambiguity". I wonder if you agree with this study by Hofstede.

Sepiru Chris said...

Hi Junosmom,

That must be Geert Hofstede.

I have some methodological and definitional quibbles with him; he persists on viewing culture as a national variable and I think it is much more.

What do I mean? Well Geert would speak of the USA as being a monolithic whole. But how similar, is the South to the North? West to the East? Rural to Urban? In my view, significant divides exist.

I have always thought Hofstede's divisions are excellent for consulting work to major transnationals and intergovernmental organisations, but a bit facile for reality.

Regardless, I deviate from your question.

Is this national characteristic which Hofstede purports to observe borne out in reality?

Absolutely, Hong Kong is well able to deal with ambiguity.

It must, it acts as a trading hub between East and West and ambiguity is the grease that lubricates faux-comprehension.

But, there is a big rift between Hong Kong's officialdom and its private industries, especially post-handover.

I would say that private industry in Hong Kong is exceptionally good at dealing with ambiguity and procedure is more marked by deviation than by adherence.

In the official bureacracy, however, Hong Kong officialdom is not so good at dealing with ambiguity. This is the type of real-world dichotomy that is created by Geert's national divisions. Just as in the US, for example, we know that there are profound differences betweeen the South and the North, politically, morally, culturally, linguistically, and so on. Just as their are profound differences, for example, in Belgium between the Walloons and the Flemish. Yet Geert would simply speak of the Belgian, as if only one variety, indivisible, existed.

Does that answer your query?

I've read blink, and read the Economist's review of Outlier. How are you finding it? I look forward to taking a boo when it arrives here in paperback.


Barbara Martin said...

Thanks for the history behind the lions and the laugh.

bindu said...

The information about the lions was fascinating. The circle of life reminded me of one in Hinduism that is also a geometrical drawing - the sri chakra. It has layers of meaning that I'm not yet familiar with though.

Junosmom said...

Chris, well I'm reading Outliers with a healthy dose of skepticism but I do find it fascinating. The author does distinguish between North and South (includes Appalachia) temperaments and cultural leanings, and does not treat the US as one nation. He brings Hofstede up only in reference to his study that pointed out cultural differences (again by country) in how they addressed power between people. This was shown to have a correlation between plane crash frequency by country of the airline.

I won't spoil it all for you if you intend to read the book one day, but it basically says that who you are has a lot to do with when you were born, where you were born and to whom you were born. From that point on, elbow grease has a lot to do with it.

I have two people waiting in line for my copy, but if they return it, I'll check back with you and mail it to you if the paperback isn't out yet.

Junosmom said...

Let me rephrase that - not "who you are" but rather how successful you are. Of course, we all have our own meaning of success.