Normally, people look up when they get here.
Here being HSBC's flagship operation in Hong Kong.
Or, people look in their jacket or purse to get their wallet out to visit the most used ATMs in the world.
(The Chief Economist of HSBC Bank Canada, about a decade ago, told me that the maximum lifespan of these ATMs, then, was a couple of months, and that some last only a few weeks, as they were used so often...)
People do not normally notice Stephen and Stitt.
Stephen and Stitt who?
Looks like we need to do some talking...
First, open your wallet.
Pull out some bills.
Ideally, you will be in Hong Kong right now. If you are not, I had better help you.
In Hong Kong, paper currency is printed by HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, and the Bank of China. All three are privately owned banks.
(Legal note: This partial image of less than one side of a 100 HKD bill is cropped and digitally obscured to prevent your humble scribe running afoul of counterfeiting legislation. Also, fair use doctrines are invoked to show the portion of the currency which I do show. I need this image to communicate the message I want to communicate, and I have obscured the portions not neccesary.)
Who is that big guy on the left of the banknote?
That is Stitt.
Who do people coming to HSBC ignore?
They ignore Stitt.
They also ignore Stephen.
Stephen is the lion on your left when you stand in front of HSBC Hong Kong's flagship tower.
Stitt (the ignored) sits opposite Stephen on the other side of HSBC's entry square.
For those with incredibly short memories, Stitt, not Stephen, is the lion on the HKD bank notes printed by HSBC such as the 100 HKD note that you saw farther above, cropped and obscured.
In the picture below it looks like that crowd around Stitt might be looking at him, and thus not ignoring him...
Unfortunately, looks are deceiving. These people were really using him as a seat and as a place to put their food, books and things.
This was a small group of domestic helpers on a Sunday who had simply found a place to sit and hang out for the day.
Stephen and Stitt were cast in 1935 for the new HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong.
Stephen was named after A.G. Stephen, the General Manager of the Hong Kong HSBC operations at the time. Stitt was named after the General Manager of the Shanghai HSBC operations at the time.
When the Japanese occupied Hong Kong in the second world war, 1941-1945, poor Stephen was used as target practice.
Stitt initially escaped unscaped, but then both Stephen and Stitt were hauled off to Japan to be melted down for their metal (for Japan's war effort).
Thankfully the war ended before Stephen and Stitt were melted.
They were identified by Allied Forces and returned to HSBC where they resumed their stance, protecting HSBC and securing its financial future.
OK. Before we leave, let's stray from history to myth...
Popular culture has it that Stitt, whose mouth is closed, originally had his mouth open, just like Stephen. But...
Popular culture has it that the geomancers realized that, due to Stitt's (and Stephen's) orientation being sideways, not in the standard Chinese Imperial Guardian Lion style with head facing forward, away from the building, that Stitt might imbibe the Eastern Wind at night.
Imbibe the Eastern Wind at night?
He might become, in Western parlance, a zombie lion.
As you can imagine, a zombie lion could, potentially, cause public unrest.
So, popular culture says, Stitt was recast to avoid the possibility of him imbibing the Eastern Wind an night. And that, says popular culture, is why Stitt has his mouth shut.
When your humble scribe meets the Chief Archivist for HSBC at a Royal Asiatic Society meeting, (it seems the type of place that one would meet the Chief Archivist) then this is a question your humble scribe will be sure to ask.