Jeff Dai submitted this image to EarthSky and wrote:
Constellation Leo rises above the guardian lions at Inner Mongolia, of China. The view both Earth and sky attracted my attention …
Lions are not native to China. But, with increased trade during the Han Dynasty and cultural exchanges through the Silk Road, lions were introduced into China from the ancient states of Central Asia and India. The Buddhist version of the Lion was originally introduced to China as the protector of dharma, and these lions have been found in religious art as early as 208 BC. Gradually they were incorporated as guardians of the Chinese Imperial dharm.
Lions seemed appropriately regal beasts to guard the gates and have been used as such since.
The sky above is the same. The 12 zodiacal constellations were introduced to China from India via the Silk Road by the book of Buddhism. While the ancient Chinese had their own independent astronomy, the zodiacal constellations are still widely known in China. Many ancient books recorded the words about zodiacal constellations.
Thank you, Jeff!
By the way, on March 9, 2017, the moon sweeps into Leo. Read more.
Bottom line: An earthly lion guards the gates, while, in the sky, a celestial Lion – Leo – ascends. Astrophotographer Jeff Dai of China tells the story.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.