Stephen and Stitt - Atlas Obscura

Stephen and Stitt

Regal guardians to one of the biggest banks in the world, symbols of Hong Kong's history and resilience.  


While the practice of having two lion statues guarding a building is not uncommon, Stephen and Stitt, the iconic lions of Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), are anything but ordinary. Proudly standing outside HSBC’s business center in Hong Kong, these statues are a symbol of reverence and unique history. 

The first pair of lion sculptures was commissioned for the HSBC Building in Shanghai, which opened in 1923. The decision to feature lions was reportedly inspired by the lions outside the Venetian Arsenal. The lions came to be known as Stephen and Stitt after two managers from HSBC’s Shanghai branch, Alexander Gordon Stephen and Gordon Holmes Stitt. They’re said to match each of the men’s personalities; Stephen is always roaring and Stitt is looking afar in tranquillity. When HSBC built a new headquarters in Hong Kong, the bank commissioned a new pair of lions from Shanghai-based British sculptor W.W. Wagstaff. Though inspired by the sculptures in Shanghai, this new set was not a replica. They have guarded the bank ever since—with two notable exceptions.

During World War II, Stephen and Stitt were removed, shipped to Japan, and planned to be reduced as scrap metal. Fortunately, the statues were recognized by an American sailor in Osaka before they were broken down. In 1945, this sailor noticed the two lions bearing similarity to the original duo at HSBC’s Shanghai office. He notified the bank and kickstarted the rescue for the beloved lions. Holes can be seen on the lions, as a result of shrapnel damage due to the shelling during the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941.

Sadly the lions were relocated, in 1981 when the bank’s head office was set to be demolished. They were placed just across the street in Statue Square, overlooking the construction of a new skyscraper. Special consideration was taken when moving the statues out of respect for their auspicious nature, Feng Shui Master David Lung. Master Lung guaranteed Stephen and Stitt were precisely placed in their original positions, ensuring they harmonized with the contour of the hill behind them. 

Today, Stephen and Stitt watch over Hong Kong’s Central, serving as a majestic testament to one of the world’s largest banks. Preserving for nearly a century, through war and protests, the lions have remained in impeccable condition. Visitors are encouraged to rub their paws for luck and prosperity, as they are revered for their excellent fengshui.

Know Before You Go

The lions over look Des Voeux Road Central. The closest station is Central, once leaving the station and onto Chater Road, make your way to Statue Square. When at Statue Square, walk south towards the HSBC building and you will see the beloved lions. 

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