Chinese Lions

Historical Background

Anonymous, 1976. 6'6"h x 3'w x 6'l"d
The United States Bicentennial Commission encouraged ordinary citizens to leave a "lasting reminder" of the 200th Anniversary of the declaration of American independence. Among the 66,000 events held in 1976, racial and ethnic themes were as prominent as national and patriotic themes. Though the celebrations grew out a profound historic event that shaped the character and direction of the American people, many activities held that year, including the donation of two marble lions by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association to the City of Los Angeles, evoked ethnic pride rather than provoked a common public memory.

Framing the Los Angeles Street entrance to the South Mall, the lions face outward to symbolically ward off evil spirits. Unaware of the significance of the orientation, the crew installing the lions initially placed them facing each other.

Each statue, including the pedestal, was sculpted in Taiwan and weighs 2-1/4 tons. The male lion on the left, symbolizing "authority", has its left paw on a ball representing the world. A bilingual inscription on the base quotes Confucius extolling the virtues of selfless public service. The female lion on the right has its right paw on a cub, symbolizing motherhood and protection. Together, the lions express the hierarchical duality in traditional Chinese society in which men are invested with the responsibilities of government service and are the holders of ultimate power, while women are subservient and relegated to managing the home.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, March 1998.

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