On guard

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2005, 12:00am

Standing guard outside many office buildings, hotels and homes in Asia are pairs of imposing stone lions. Also known as Fu dogs, they are thought to protect against negative energy.

To differentiate between the male and female lions, look at the object underneath their paws. The male lion rests his paw on a ball or pearl, while the female rests her paw on a curled-up cub. Standing with your back to your front door, the male lion should be on your left and the female on your right. Should they be placed the other way round, women will be in control. A famous hotel in Taipei, which has the female lion on the left and the male on the right has always had female managing directors. When a male director took over, complications arose, the worst of which was a fire that seriously damaged the hotel. Order was restored when a female director was appointed.

Miniature stone lions are widely available in shops in Hong Kong and can be seen sitting at the entrance of apartments that face the emergency stairs or a lift. Traditionally, it's believed the lions will be effective only if they have gone through an official blessing ceremony carried out by Taoist monks, usually performed at the inauguration of new buildings.