Lions guard the two sides of the pailou 牌楼 (páilou) and are again found on each side of the Mountain gate 山门 (Shānmén) within the temple grounds.
The lion is a symbol of power in China. The lion is the king of the animal kingdom. The lion is usually found in front of Daoist temples and monasteries to symbolize the infinite. Lions are always shown in pairs, one female and one male. The female is shown with a lion cub below her foot and the male with a silk ball beneath his. The Daoist interpretation of the symbols is that the male symbolizes the spirit and the female the prosperity and spread of Daoism.
Baiyun Guan has survived through many dynasties and under Jurchen, Mongol, Han, Manchu, and Communist rule. When, in 739, the Tang Emperor Xuan Zong (玄宗 Xuán Zōng) commanded that the monastery be built, it is unlikely that he visualized the extent of his action.
Last update: May 2008
© Marilyn Shea, 2008