Guardian Lions of Route 66
A pair of large white marble lions guard this stretch of the Mojave Desert, and it is utterly mysterious how they got there.
Most days you can see clear from the lions to the Amboy Crater, the geological remains of an extinct cinder cone volcano, five miles to the west—making the presence of these beautiful marble creatures that much more otherworldly.
Often called “foo dogs” in the west, Chinese guardian lions are most notably gendered by the tokens they hold. The male (symbolizing yang) holds an embroidered ball, representing a building or other space under his protection. The female (symbolizing yin) shelters a cub, representing nurturance and protection of the souls within a space. In this case, it seems the pair is tasked with keeping watch over the entire Mojave Desert and all who pass through.
It is unknown how the lions got there. Standing about five feet high and elevated on cinder block pedestals, they were first sighted in late 2013, and whoever placed them there has never stepped forward to claim responsibility. Administrators of the lions’ Facebook page emphasize that they are not the benefactors. The mystery serves only to amplify their allure. How and why were two hand-carved solid marble statues weighing thousands of pounds transported here, four miles from the nearest town?
Other mysteries circulate online as to the origin of visitor logbooks at the sites, and pondering the significance of a surveyor’s brass waymarker pounded into the earth before the female lion. Is this a geocache hiding in plain sight? And what is the significance of a real estate sign placed near the roadside north of the male lion?
Whatever the lions’ origin, passersby have attached their own meaning. People leave coins, offerings, memorials, and words. Logbooks collect travelers’ musings; when the logs disappear, fans replace them with new notebooks, reproducing if they can what has been documented from the missing logs. The lions stand watch over an ever-changing landscape of meaningful gestures and tokens. Good luck and memorial offerings flooded the female lion after a May 2016 online report that she was damaged by a high-powered rifle (nearby the shooter had scribbled an apology on a piece of driftwood, claiming he didn’t know the target was precious). Among their ever-growing fanbase, it appears the lions have attracted guardians of their own.
You just have to love it when someone leaves a pair of huge marble statues in the desert without saying why. I'm starting to think that the aliens are messing with us, ya know?
Coffee in the kitchen again today!