Chinese Stone Lions at the University of Missouri – Columbia, Missouri - Atlas Obscura
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Columbia, Missouri

Chinese Stone Lions at the University of Missouri

Two Ming Dynasty lion statues guard the entrance to the journalism school. 

A pair of centuries-old stone lions that at one time guarded a Confucian temple in Nanjing, China, now stand at the entrance of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

Sitting inside a brick archway that leads into the school, the intricate and elegant white lion statues were carved by an unknown artist almost 550 years ago, during the Ming Dynasty, in Chufu, the birthplace of Confucius. Each creature stands about five feet tall and weighs about 5,000 pounds.

The lions were sent to the university as gifts in 1931 by the Chinese government at the time. The founder of the School of Journalism, Walter Williams, accepted the ancient stone statues as symbols of goodwill between the two nations.

In Chinese history, guardian lions have a long and storied history. Born from Buddhist symbolism, the stone lions often stand in front of palaces, tombs, government offices, temples, and homes of the wealthy. It was a gift of great significance, rooting the school in a tradition of international honor and interconnectedness.

A Japanese stone lantern, which the school received in 1926 from the American-Japan Society of Tokyo, also stands near the entrance.

Know Before You Go

While the ancient stone lions are majestic and prime for photos, do not climb on them. The hope is that they remain in the archway for hundreds of more years.