Leo Rises Over Inner Mongolia

April 21, 2017

Constellation Leo and the chinese guardian lions (1)

Photographer: Jeff Dai
Summary Author: Jeff Dai

The constellation Leo the Lion is shown here rising above guardian lions in the Inner Mongolia region of China. Lions aren't native to China. But with increased trade during the Han dynasty and cultural exchanges through the Silk Road, lions were introduced into China from the ancient states of Central Asia and India. The Buddhist version of the lion was originally introduced to China as the protector of dharma. These lions have been depicted in religious art as early as 208 BC. Gradually, they were incorporated as guardians of the Chinese Imperial dharma. Apparently, lions seemed appropriately regal beasts to guard the gates and have been used as such ever since.

Evidence suggests that like lions the 12 zodiacal constellations were introduced to China from India. The ancient Chinese had their own independent astronomy, but the zodiacal constellations are still widely noted in art and literature. For example, numerous ancient Chinese books mention the names of the zodiacal constellations. Photo taken on December 27, 2016.