Drum-shaped bearing stone at No.7, Guanshuyuan Hutong

The drum-shaped bearing stone saw its zenith in the Yuan Dynasty. It had other names such as gate pedestal, gate support, gate drum, gate pillow stone or gate pier. The stone was placed beneath the gate’s hinge to support, fix the pillars and hold the bottom of the hinge. There was no such stone in small courtyard houses—a pieces of carved stone or wooden oblong object was generally put at the gate’s two sides.

The drum-shaped bearing stone is also a decorative art that indicated the owner’s social status. In the residence of imperial families, the stone was made of white marble; in average official residence and houses, the stone was from the mung bean stone or blue stone. In residence of military officials, the relief on the dram shaped stone was usually the patterns of lions stepping on colored silk balls, two lions playing with water, or lioness chucking the baby lion, etc. In traditional Chinese ideology, the stone lions on the relief symbolize prosperous offspring and obtaining inheritable royal positions”.

Drum-shaped bearing stone could be shaped like drum, box, lion, kylin and crane, etc. On the stones were mostly carved with patterns of fish, colorful pottery, auspicious cloud, weaving pattern, drawing of the Eight Diagrams or taiji, imitation of the painting “Procession of Horses and Chariots For a Long Journey (created in Eastern Han Dynasty), Kylin Sending a Son, Two Dragons Playing with a Pearl, Two Chinese Mythical Creatures Tianlu (in charge of wealth) and Bixie (wards off evilness), the Undersecretary’s Red Apricot. Ruyi (as you wish) and Auspicious Cloud, Become A First-rank Court Official, Getting the First in All of the Three Imperial Examinations, Rich and Honorable Forever, The Harmonious Immortals Bring Married Happiness, Double Happiness of Bamboo and Plum Blossom, Rich and Noble Peony, etc.

In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the bearing stone was shaped like a round drum; after the late Qing, oblong stones became common. And Jiaotu-shaped stone has the longest history. The Jiaotu (or Chiaotu), the ninth son of the dragon king, resembles a conch or clam and craves seclusion. The Ren Hai Ji, written in the Qing Dynasty had it that: “Jiaotu is inherently acute and idle, so it serves as the guard of a house.

You can find extremely delicate drum-shaped stone at No.7 of the Guanshuyuan hutong in Dongcheng district. It’s thick, round and smooth, heavy and complete. Its carvings have cloud shaped patterns, flouncing and little lions lying prone.