A statue of a Shishi looking over Mount Emei, China
石獅, or Stone Lions are usually historically posted as guardians at doors, gates, and other places of entry in important locations (Palaces, temples, homes of the wealthy…)
The lions are always presented in pairs, a manifestation of yin and yang, the female representing yin and the male yang. The male lion has one paw (may be right or left) on an embroidered ball called a “xiù qiú” (绣球), which is sometimes carved with a geometric pattern known in the West as the “Flower of life" The female is essentially identical, but has a cub under the other paw to the male, representing the cycle of life. Symbolically, the female lion protects those dwelling inside, while the male guards the structure. Sometimes the female has her mouth closed, and the male open. This symbolizes the enunciation of the sacred word "om". However, Japanese adaptions state that the male is inhaling, representing life, while the female exhales, representing death. Other styles have both lions with a single large pearl in each of their partially opened mouths. The pearl is carved so that it can roll about in the lion’s mouth but sized just large enough so that it can never be removed.