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.

文化为国家之命脉国家之所以兴也繇于文化而文化之所以盛也实繇于学深识远
见之士知立国之本必亟以兴学为先创始也艰自是光大而扩充之而其文化之宏往
往收效于数百年间而勿替是说也徵之于美国哈佛大学滋益信矣哈佛约翰先生于
三百年前由英之美讲学于波士顿市嗣在剑桥设立大学即以哈佛名之规制崇闳学
课美备因而人才辈出为世界有名之学府与美国之国运争荣哈佛先生之深识远见
其有造于国家之文化也大矣我国为东方文化古国然世运推移日新月异志学之士
复负笈海外以求深造近三十年来就学于哈佛大学学成归国服务于国家社会者先
后几达千人可云极盛今届母校成立三百年纪念之期同人等感念沾漑启迪之功不
能无所表献自兹以往当见两国文化愈益沟通必更光大扩充之使国家之兴盛得随
学问之进境以增隆斯则同人等之所馨香以祝而永永纪念不忘者尔
西历一九三六年九月哈佛大学中国留学生全体同人敬立

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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