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What symbolizes protection in China?

What symbolizes protection in China?

Protection is an important concept in Chinese culture and there are many symbols that represent safety, security and warding off evil. Some key symbols of protection in China include guardian lions, knots, gourds and coins. These protective symbols can be found throughout Chinese art, architecture, traditions and folklore.

Guardian Lions

One of the most recognizable symbols of protection in Chinese culture are guardian lions. Also known as Imperial guardian lions or Fu Dogs, these powerful protectors are commonly placed in front of imperial palaces, temples, government offices, homes and businesses. Guardian lions are always created in pairs, with the male lion resting his paw on a ball and the female lion resting her paw on a cub. This represents the balance of yin and yang.

The guardian lion is believed to have its origins in Buddhism and was gradually incorporated into Chinese culture. Chinese buddhists who had traveled to India saw stone statues of lions guarding Buddhist temples. They incorporated this tradition back home in China as a way to protect holy sites. Over time, guardian lions became a key symbol of protection in Imperial China. People believed that the placement of guardian lions would ward off evil spirits and bring good luck and fortune.

Some key facts about Chinese guardian lions:

Name in Chinese shízi 石獅; shīzi 獅子
Other names Imperial guardian lion, Fu Dog, Foo Dog
Symbolize Protection, courage, strength, dignity
Usually placed in pairs Male resting paw on embroidered ball, representing power. Female resting paw on a cub, representing nurture.

Today, guardian lions remain a popular symbol of protection and good fortune in Chinese culture. They are still commonly placed outside homes, restaurants, banks, hotels, temples and corporate offices. Their fierce stare is believed to ward off evil spirits and guard the premises.


Knots are an ancient Chinese symbol that represent luck, prosperity, longevity, strength and protection. In Chinese culture, knots represent the interconnectedness of life. They also symbolize the belief in eternal good fortune and a long life.

Some of the most common Chinese knot symbols are:

Endless Knot Represents eternity, unity, infinite wisdom
Dragon Knot Symbol of power, strength, prosperity
Double Happiness Knot Represents love, marriage, happiness
Chinese Button Knot Wards off evil spirits, protects children

Chinese knots dates back thousands of years to the Han Dynasty and were often worn as decorative ornaments and charms. The endless knot was one of the earliest Chinese knot symbols, representing the Buddha’s endless wisdom and the endless cycle of life.

Over time, Chinese artisans became masters at knot tying and incorporated more intricate and elaborate knots with curves and twists into textiles, art, architecture and jewelry. The Chinese dragon knot brings together the protective power of the dragon with the eternal security of the knot. The double happiness knot combines the joy of marriage and togetherness. The button knot provides protection, especially for little children who wear it on their clothing.

In modern times, wearing and gifting Chinese knot accessories is still popular as they symbolize blessings, protection and luck. Knots are commonly found as jewelry, wall hangings, tapestries and embroidery.


The gourd is an ancient Chinese symbol of protection and good luck. In China, gourds symbolize health, prosperity, protection against evil and happiness. Displaying gourds in the home is believed to ward off evil influences and sickness.

Some of the protective properties of the gourd include:

Guard against evil spirits Its hard outer shell protects against entry of malign influences
Dispels disease Its round shape and hollow interior symbolize wholeness and health
Blocks witchcraft Its drying properties absorbs and destroys evil spells or witchcraft aimed against the home
Promotes fertility Its many seeds represent bounty and rebirth

Chinese gourds are often displayed at home entrances, in living rooms and kitchens and above beds as they are believed to protect those spaces. The gourd is also significant in Taoism and the gourd’s hardiness, flexibility and hollowness is seen as a representation of adaptability and enlightenment.

The gourd remains a popular Chinese craft and art motif. Paintings, carvings, sculptures and other handicrafts depicting gourds are common gifts exchanged during Chinese New Year festivities. They represent best wishes for protection in the coming year.


Coins are considered an important symbol of protection and luck in Chinese culture. This traces back to ancient times when coins were believed to ward off evil spirits and disasters.

Some of the protective properties of coins include:

Deflect demons and ghosts The metallic sound of jingling coins scares away malevolent spirits
Attract wealth Its round shape represents the accumulation of wealth and prosperity
Promote fortune Coins invite the god of wealth into the home
Strengthen the chi Coins harmonize the energy of a space with their metal element

Chinese homes would often hang coins above doorways, on walls or under beds or mattresses to safeguard the home. Coins were also embedded into the foundations of houses and structures during construction for protection.

Today, the tradition continues of gifting newlyweds or new businesses with coins in red envelopes to invite luck and wealth. Coins tied together with red ribbons are also popular home decorations during Chinese New Year for their ability to summon fortune and prosperity in the coming year. Miniature replicas of the ancient Chinese coin, the tael, are particularly popular as symbols of protection.


Protection against evil influences and misfortune is an integral part of Chinese culture. The Chinese have incorporated powerful protective symbols like guardian lions, knots, gourds and coins throughout their art, architecture and traditions.

By displaying these protective motifs, the Chinese believe they can deflect demons, strengthen chi, accumulate wealth, promote health and invite good blessings. These symbols endure in modern Chinese society where they are still used to summon luck, fortune and security. Their protective properties make them popular gifts, home decorations and craft motifs even today.

From fierce guardian beasts to the simple auspiciousness of a knot or coin, China has a deep and rich tradition of using symbols to ward off evil and usher in good fortune. These symbols provide a sense of protection and optimism that has endured through the ages.