Shishi (or Jishi) is translated as "lion” but it can also refer to a deer or dog with magical properties and the power to repel evil spirits. A pair of shishi traditionally stand guard outside the gates of Japanese Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The Shishi are traditionally depicted in pairs, one with mouth open and one with mouth shut. The opened/closed mouth relates to the first sound in japanese alphabet and the last. These two sounds symbolize beginning and end, birth and death.