Looking upward from the spot where the previous picture was taken, I saw that I was being protected by a watchful dragon. The dragon was a benevolent figure, in Chinese mythology — not a villain like in Western stories. Each of the wooden columns of the gatehouse is topped with one of these dragons.
The two stairways up to the throne room where the emperor held official audiences are guarded by four of these watchdogs. They may be lions: the Chinese venerated lions, but they didn't have much concept of what they actually look like, so they often modeled them after dogs. At least, that's what I remember from grade school history class.
Marcy had to pet the guard dog/lion.