Historic lion heads take pride of place at HSBC headquarters following plaza makeover

Granite sculptures guard south entrance to bank after being kept in storage since 1981

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 4:32am

Two giant granite sculptures of lion heads, dating back to the 1930s, are now on display at HSBC headquarters in Central in celebration of the bank's 150th anniversary.

Each standing 1.4 metres tall and weighing 2.2 tonnes, the granite lions join the two famous bronze lions, "Stephen" and "Stitt", that have sat proudly at the ground-floor plaza for years.

While the bronze lions - often regarded as fung shui fittings that ward off evil spirits and bad luck for inhabitants of the premises - are at the Des Voeux Road Central entrance, the granite lion heads guard the south entrance facing Queen's Road Central.

The lion heads had originally been on the roof of the bank's previous headquarters after it was built in 1936. They went into a warehouse after HSBC started developing a new headquarters - at its current location - in 1981.

The plaza had been closed for renovation since September, with speculation this was over security concerns over the looming Occupy Central demonstrations.

The 79-day mass sit-ins for democracy eventually focused on Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, an exhibition is being held at the renovated plaza, which now features a giant historical map with mosaics and engravings showing the old seashore line and positions of key buildings in Central in 1910.

A photo gallery takes visitors through HSBC's milestone events in its journey from a regional bank to a leading global financial institution over the years, alongside Hong Kong's transformation from a small fishing village to a financial hub.

HSBC group chief executive Stuart Gulliver, who flew in from London to officiate at a ceremony for the plaza's reopening, said the bank's history was inseparable from that of Hong Kong.

HSBC, formerly known as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, was established in Hong Kong in March 1865 and in Shanghai a month later. It started issuing local-denominated banknotes in the two cities soon afterwards.