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May 16, 2004

Lions and shrimp

Here's a little puzzle for you:
If you check out the photo gallery, you will see pictures of the stone guardian lions that are often outside important buildings and at the gates of places like the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan. Unlike Western-style library lions, guardian lions come in pairs - male and female. Can you see the difference? Go take a look before you read the answer.

The way you can tell female guardian lions is that they always have a cub with them. The male lions have one paw on a ball. For some reason, the ball often looks like a soccer ball. (Do you think that the message here is that men play games while women look after the kids?) Another thing is that guardian lions aren't mass produced. They are individually carved, so each pair is different. The way the female and her cub are portrayed varies a lot. Sometimes the cub is very small and tucked under her paw, so it's hard to tell what you're looking at, but often, as with the lion in the photo gallery picture, the cub is quite large. Another female guardian lion I saw had her paw on the tummy of her cub, who was lying on his back playing with her claws! Very cute! I think I'm going to start a photo collection of female guardian lions. I really think they're fascinating.

Now for the shrimp story. As you may know, Chinese people are very fond of seafood, especially shrimp. And, as you may also know, they eat a lot of unusual things, often prepared in unusual ways (turtles, frogs, etc). Well, when we were having dinner with the woman from the bank and some other friends last Friday, I saw what has to be the weirdest (not to mention the grossest) thing I've seen so far. A bowl of shrimp was placed on the table. I thought the shrimp looked a little odd, since they weren't the usual bright pink. I looked more closely, and that's when I found out why. The things were STILL ALIVE!!! And that's the condition they were in when our friends ate them!!!!! I was so grossed out that I almost had to leave the table! I don't think I have ever been so weirded out by a dining experience. Fortunately, I was able to behave myself, but it took all the Zen-like detachment I could summon to refrain from barfing on the table.
Repeat after me, "Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum. ..."

Posted by now at May 16, 2004 11:31 PM