Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tea lions

Not just a global drink, tea holds the key to the past, involving dynasties and their influences on teaware, and opening many colourful pages of Chinese history for me.

This week, I entered a photo competition themed "Chinese influences outside of China". Chinese guardian lions have traditionally stood at the entrances of imperial palaces, tombs, government buildings, temples, and the residential compounds of the well-heeled since the Han Dynasty, and were believed to have mythical powers of warding off bad spirits just like the gargoyles that adorn the steeples of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

Today, pairs of such guardian lions: one male and one female, are still decorative and hallmark features parked outside entrances to Chinese restaurants, hotels and supermarkets. Being in the middle of Europe and 8000 km away from the middle kingdom, I sought inspiration from my gaiwan and the stone lions guarding the entrance of the town hall tower in the market square. Quite similar to their Chinese counterparts in Asia, but not identical.

Notice how these lions guarding the town hall tower seem a bit more laid back and stretching out comfortably for their cup of tea. They remind me of myself on low-energy days in need of a sip of energising tea. Chinese lions on the other hand tend to be in upright, no-nonsense position everywhere you see them.

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