A new show will start next week at one of Hong Kong’s most beautiful exhibition spaces, the Asia Society. It explores the role of the lion as a symbol in Asian art. The show is centred around a rare and mysterious treasure which has been brought to Hong Kong especially, the Mari-Cha Lion.
This metal statue, dating from the eleventh century, was found in Italy but believed to be of Middle Eastern origin. It is hollow, and according to some theories, was designed to decorate the roof of a palace where it would “roar” as the wind blew. Similar ornaments are known to have existed in Yemen at the time.
Unfortunately the exhibition will not be showing the similar, but even more striking, griffin of Pisa, which is also of mysterious Middle Eastern origin but has resided in the city of Pisa, perhaps brought back as spoils of an overseas war, since the thirteenth century. At over one metre tall, it is the largest metal sculpture known from the Islamic Middle Ages.