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Pay a visit and be surrounded by lions

By Eva Tang

Stone lions sit in the yard in the Japanese style building on Qidong street. (Photos courtesy of Department of Cultural Affairs)How many lions have you seen in your life? Pay a visit to the ongoing show in the Japanese style buildings on Taipei’s Qitong Street, and you will discover hundreds of them.

The display is a collaboration between the Taipei City's Department of Cultural Affairs and Yilan County’s He Tong Tang Lion Museum whose founder Kao Chien-wen owns a collection of more than 7,000 lion figurines made of various materials, from different dynasties in Chinese history.

Kao, who spent most of his life time collecting lion figures, said that he got interested in lions in childhood. He preferred to stay beside the door during temple visits with his parents to keep distance from the smell of the incense. That was when he started noticing the stone lions at the entrance of almost every temple in Taiwan.

He did research and found out that there were no lions in China. The figure of the lion was introduced to China from the vast western region during the Western Han Dynasty (207BC-AD25). Chinese people then believed they were symbols to ward off evil spirits.

Lion figurines made of various materials are seen in the exhibition. (Photos courtesy of Department of Cultural Affairs)Hence the lion became closely linked to people’s lives, and probably the most utilized animal in Chinese culture. For example, visitors can see lion-shaped doorknockers, table and bed legs, and incense burner lids, which are all included at the collection.

Besides lion figures, the exhibition also has a section of antiques from pottery figurine to blue and white porcelain and bronzes. The show is open everyday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. through July 24. The address is No. 11, Lane 53, Qidong street, Taipei. Entrance is NT$120 for adults.