Stone lions at Forbidden City

Blog 14

4-7-18

I was revisiting all the big sights on my recent trip to Beijing, including the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City has lots of dragons, but I like the guardian lions as shown in the picture above best. There are usually a pair of them guarding various palace entrances. And once you see them, you will begin to notice them all over Beijing, bronze lions and stone lions. One has a ball under its paw and the other looks like it is crushing a baby lion. Looks pretty scary. What are they? What do they mean?

The first lion is a male, and has his paw resting on top of a ball or sphere.  That is supposed to represent the yang male force and the paw on the ball represents dominance of the world. The second lion is a female and has her paw resting upon or restraining a child lion cub. This is supposed to represent nurture and the female yin force.

There is a famous Chinese tongue twister about stone lions

四 是 四 , 十 是 十 , 十 四 是 十 四 , 四 十 是 四 十 , 四 十 四 只 石 狮 子 是 死 的。

Pronunciation: sì shì sì, shí shì shí, shí sì shì shí sì, sì shí shì sì shí, sì shí sì zhī shí shī zì shì sǐ de.

Translation: 4 is 4, 10 is 10, 14 is 14, 40 is 40, 44 stone lions are dead.

Can you see why it’s difficult for foreigners to learn Chinese?

我最近在北京出差去看了看紫禁城。虽然紫禁城有很多龙,但是我最喜欢里面的狮子。常常有两个石狮子坐在宫廷门口外。看了这些狮子以后,我发现可以在全北京找到很多和紫禁城一样的狮子。北京有青铜狮子和石狮子。在紫禁城里面狮子总是一对一对的。第一个狮子有一个球在爪子下面。第二个狮子有一个小狮子宝宝在爪子下面。看起来很可怕。为什么要这样呢?有什么其他的意思吗?

第一个是雄狮子,他的爪子在球上代表控制世界。第二个是母狮子,她的爪子放在小狮子上代表照顾孩子。

中文有一个关于石狮子有名的绕口令:四是四,十是十,十四是十四,四十是四十,四十四石狮子是死的。

你现在可以明白为什么学中文给外国人带来很多困难了吗?