OTTAWA, June 21, 2013 – Deputy Mayor Steve Desroches, along with special guests from the Xicheng District of Beijing, officials from the Chinese Embassy, members of the Chinese Community Association of Ottawa, and local community partners joined together on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 for a special dedication ceremony of Barrhaven’s new Chinese Guardian Lions. Through a traditional ritual, the lions were ‘awoken’ by a special eye painting ceremony held at the morning’s event. Following the ceremony, a Chinese dragon dance led the attendees on a tour through Water Dragon Park.
The Chinese Guardian Lions are a gift from the Xicheng District of the City of Beijing and The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to the City of Ottawa and the local community. After a lengthy journey which began in Beijing, China, the Guardian Lions which weigh 2000kg each, arrived at Water Dragon Park in Barrhaven and were placed at the entrance of the park.
“The lions are a unique park feature that pays tribute to our sister city,” said Deputy Mayor Steve Desroches, City Councillor for the Chapman Mills Drive community where Water Dragon Park is located. “The Barrhaven Guardian Lions project was a true community effort and would not have been successful without the generous shipping assistance of CN, the dedication of our community partners, and the hard work of a great team who helped unload and install them.”
This special event celebrated the City of Ottawa’s strong ties with China and the City of Beijing, as represented by the Ottawa Chinatown Royal Arch, the Sister City Friendship Relations that was established in 1999 by Mayor Watson prior to amalgamation, and now with the donation of the Barrhaven Guardian Lions to Water Dragon Park.
In 2012, the City of Ottawa named the park in the heart of the Barrhaven community ‘Water Dragon Park’ as a tribute to the special Ottawa-Beijing relationship. As part of this recognition, the City of Ottawa has incorporated Chinese influences within this park through the planting of Chinese indigenous trees and the use of Chinese characters on the park amenities, such as the park benches and waste receptacles. Water Dragon Park is enjoyed by the families in our community and features a soccer field, shade shelter, splash pad, play structures, tobogganing hill, puddle rink for winter skating and a community building.
Chinese guardian lions have traditionally stood in front of the gates of Chinese Imperial palaces, tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials since the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220.) They were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits and capable of driving away evil spirits.
Pairs of guardian lion statues are still common decorative and symbolic elements at the entrances to restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and other structures, with one sitting on each side of the entrance, in locations around the world where the Chinese people have immigrated and settled. In Ottawa, these examples would include the Chinatown arch on Somerset, the Ottawa Chinese-Canadian Heritage Centre and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China on St. Patrick Street.
As with many other locations, Barrhaven’s Chinese Guardian Lions consist of a male resting his paw upon an embroidered ball (in imperial contexts, representing supremacy over the world) and a female restraining a playful cub that is on its back (representing nurture.)
This graceful pair of marble, hand-finished lions, representing the Ottawa-Beijing Sister City Relationship, will stand together on guard at Water Dragon Park in South Nepean for generations to come.