Temple Lions, Unicorns, and Memetics.

A meme is the gene of the idea world. For instance, a cultural practice is a meme. Because smaller memes like proverbs travel faster, they are also called mind viruses.

When Buddhism was brought from India to China, many memes traveled with it: e.g. books about meditation techniques, rituals, religious concepts and artistic designs. Among these was the image of a lion.

This process of cultural transmission took many centuries, Tibet was one of the first stops on the voyage until the memes finally reached Japan and North America.

The artists that made the lion images and statues for shrines and temples often had not seen a lion in their life, so they not only reproduced, but invented. They formed the lions as they felt the lions should look. And after some time, these animals transmuted from an image of their biological model into mythical beings.

Hence the temple lion is a good metaphor for memetics itself. And we apply a little mutation and call this a Memple lion ;-)

From an email:
Thanks for the elaborations on the Memple Lion.

That reminded me of a short story-meme:

"Do unicorns have their horn in the middle of their forehead?"
"Yes."
"Do unicorns exist?"
"No."

The horn you saw at the museum is from a narwhale (German: Narwal, a small whale with a long horn, that was mistaken in the Middle Ages as being the horn of a Unicorn). Unicorns are a good example of a purely culturally transmitted meme.

Some years ago, when the LEO German-English-French online dictionary did not have that many words as today (May 2005), I could not find the translation of the German word Narwal there,
BUT - they have a lion as icon ... :-) LEO online dictionary
The acronym for Link Everything Online was intentionally chosen to say "lion" (LEO means lion in Latin) because the server is located in Bavaria which has a lion as heraldic animal.

For the long story, see this text (shows a nice temple lion graphic, also c-realm.comics there).


Schrein | Shrine


© Copyright 2005 Mario Hilgemeier, email: contact
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