Apr 222012

Harvard bixi unwrapped

Bixi in Harvard Yard. Photo by Daderot (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

A sure sign that spring has sprung in Harvard Yard (apart from the overpowering smell of mulch) is the reappearance of the Harvard University bixi from its winter wrapping. The term bìxì (赑屃 / 贔屭) refers to a dragon with the body of a tortoise. Stone bixi often serve as a base for a tablet or stele. The 17-foot tall, 20+ ton marble sculpture was given to the university on the occasion of its tercentennial in 1936 by alumni who were members of Harvard Clubs in China. Although the bixi dates from the Qing dynasty, it was re-inscribed for Harvard. The annual winter wrapping, however, only began in the late ’90s and the inscription is severely eroded.

The following transcription is taken from the Wikimedia page devoted to the bixi.


Lugou (Marco Polo) Bridge bixi

Lugou (Marco Polo) Bridge bixi. Photo by Vmenkov (CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL license) via Wikimedia Commons

A partial translation appears on the bixi’s Wikipedia page.

Harvard’s bixi looks very like one in Beijing at the 卢沟桥盧溝橋 / Lúgōu Qiáo, aka Marco Polo Bridge.

Read more about the Harvard bixi in Wikipedia and this 1944 article in the Harvard Crimson. More photos by Daderot are available on Wikimedia Commons.

I think of it as the “lion turtle” because of its resemblance to that creature in the cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Lion Turtle in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Lion Turtle in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Image from http://avatar.wikia.com

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