Vandals have irreparably damaged the carved granite lions guarding the pavilion at Tacoma’s Chinese Reconciliation Park, smashing their mouths and taking the balls carved inside them.
A vandalism report was filed with Tacoma police last week and there was no information on possible suspects, police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said Tuesday.
“These lions, each of them was individually carved out of a whole piece of granite — including the ball of granite in each of their mouths, which was carved from within, not inserted afterward,” said Lihuang Wung, a city of Tacoma senior planner who is the project manager for the park.
“The technique, the craftsmanship, the beauty of it, you cannot attach a price to it.”
The structure, called a “ting” — the Mandarin word for pavilion — was paid for by Tacoma’s sister city of Fuzhou, China, and opened in 2011.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking to see that someone in the community would go to such an extreme to destroy something in a park that is in the community for people to enjoy,” said Theresa Pan Hosley, president of the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation.
Lions are thought to ward off bad energy and are important in traditional Chinese structures, Wung said.
The lions have been vandalized in the past, including chips to the tongues and teeth of the lions in what were likely attempts to get the balls from their mouths.
“I just want to say to the people that are doing it: Think twice before you do it,” Hosley said. “I don’t understand what kind of pleasure people get out of doing it. I don’t comprehend it.”