Philadelphia can rest easier tonight: Two giant stone guardians are now on watch.
The seven-ton Chinese lions, stationed at opposite ends of a renovated 10th Street Plaza, were awakened during Buddhist rites performed on Wednesday, as nearly 70 people gathered to dedicate a reclaimed section of Chinatown.
Community members, police and fire commanders, school children, city officials, and businesspeople joined leaders of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. to cut a ribbon at the plaza, where 10th Street crosses the Vine Street Expressway.
"A huge day," said John Chin, PCDC's executive director.
In the center of the plaza stands an Asian-style pergola, designed to create a shady retreat. PCDC wants the area to be a gathering place, particularly for seniors who live in nearby On Lok House, and to perhaps serve as a stage for bands.
The plaza is intended to help pedestrians cross the physical and psychological barrier of the expressway.
For years, the space had been a dumping ground. Now, a neighborhood desperate for public space has a little more room.
The lions, also known as Foo Dogs, were carved in China's Fujian province, shipped to New York, trucked to Philadelphia, then unloaded by crane onto the plaza.
On the south side squats the female, her paw on a cub. To the north sits the male, his paw on a globe.
On Wednesday, a Buddhist monk recited scripture, then dabbed red ink on the lions' eyes, noses, ears, tongues, and backs, giving life and power to the granite beasts, awakening them to their role as protectors.
"It was great," said Melody Wong, who runs PCDC's Main Street program. "Even with the rain - the Chinese believe that water is wealth, a sign of prosperity."
The lions were adorned with red ribbons, which they'll wear for a while.
"It's nice to dress them up," Wong said. "They look like they could go out now."