A majestic new attraction at the Fortune Plaza Times Square in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei Province, is being hailed as one of the city’s swankiest landmarks.
The massive lion was carved out of a single giant tree trunk by renowned sculptor Dengding Rui Yao and a team of 20 sculptors in Myanmar, over a period of three years. Once complete, it was transported 5,000 kilometers, arriving in China in December 2015. At 14.5m long, 5m high, and 4m wide, the ‘Oriental Lion’ now holds the Guinness Record for the world’s largest wood sculpture.
Most of the Oriental Lion’s body retains the original texture of the wood – only its head, paws, and tail appear to have been chiselled smooth and polished. It isn’t clear if the wood used for the model originated in China. If it did, it is most likely from the Metasequoia, a fast-growing, deciduous tree native to Lichuan county in Hubei province.
Since ancient times, the lion has been auspicious in China as a symbol of power and grandeur. They are also believed to ward off evil spirits, which is why imposing statues of lions can be seen at the gates of imperial palaces, official residences, temples and tombs. So it’s no surprise that the people of Wuhan showed up in large number to welcome the arrival of this majestic artwork in their home city.
I just hope the tree they used for this ambitious project was already damaged or dying, because despite the undeniable beauty of Oriental Lion, no artwork would justify bringing down a magnificent tree that has to have been hundreds of years old.