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Ornamental Pillar

Ornamental PillarA well-known architectural ornament in China is the huabiao, often seen on the grounds of palaces, imperial gardens and mausoleums. It is also seen at some crossroads to mark the thoroughfares.

There is a pair of such ornamental pillars carved out of marble standing in front and behind Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, at the center of Beijng. Each pillar, entwined by a divine dragon engraved in relief, carries a plate on top, on which squats an animal called hou. This creature in Chinese mythology is supposed to be born of the dragon and good at keeping watch. It is generally referred to as the "stone lion". The four kong at Tiananmen have different names, the two in front facing south and with their backs to the wall are called wangjungui or "looking out for the emperor's return". Their duty, it is said, was to watch over the emperor's excursions and call him back if he was too long absent from the palace. The couple inside the gate facing north are called wangjungchu or "looking out for the emperor's progress", and their job was to imperial palace. If he should indulge himself and neglect court affairs, the stone lions would remind him of his duties and tell him it was time to go out among the people.

These popular explanations reflected the naïve wishes of the people for an emperor who would listen to advice and work really for their good.Ornamental Pillar

The huabiao has a long history behind it and can be traced back to Yao and Shun, legendary sage kings in remote times. To solicit public criticism, it is said they erected wooden crosses at marketplaces so that the people might write their complaints and wishes on them. These wooden posts were replaced during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.) by stone pillars, which grew more and more decorative and ornately carved until they became the sumptuous columns to palace gates.

Travel to Beijing you will see the beautiful China ornamental pillars in the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City!

Read more Chinese culture info at See China-Global Chinese Culture

Questions & Comments

  • Ripple on December 8, 2010, 2:08 pm

    Hi Clifford, there's hardly any info about Kong in English in the Internet. Here is a Chinese source: http://baike.baidu.com/view/84507.htm hope it helps.

  • Clifford Ames on December 8, 2010, 12:43 pm

    Where can I get more information on the animal atop the pilar called a kong? Can you give me a source on the Internet? Thanks.

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