CHINATOWN — Museum director Anita Luk has lost count of the times she's watched the surveillance footage, but the incident still shocks her.
The video, captured early in the morning on March 2, shows a man trudging through the snow and hammering away at the hand-carved decorative lions perched outside the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago, 238 W. 23rd St.
"Altogether 16 times," said Luk, watching again as the man knocks out one of the statue's teeth. "And then he walked to the other side and did the same thing."
The lions, fashioned from a single chunk of blue stone in China's Fujian Province, were donated to the museum last year by Chinese officials as a gift for the neighborhood's centennial celebration.
Now community leaders are hoping to hoping to find out who was behind the attack.
"We're shocked. We can't imagine why someone would do something like that to us ... this is a small community, and we will get him," Luk said.
The traditional guardian lions, sometimes called Imperial Lions, were originally a luxury item reserved for elite Chinese and placed in front of a home to protect the family's wealth and well-being — "like they're looking out for you and they're fierce," Luk said.
Although the prices and quality of the decorative pieces have made them more accessible to the masses, the lions outside the museum are, financially speaking, the real deal.
The man knocked out or busted the teeth on each statue, causing what Luk estimated to be "at least $10,000" in damage.
Until an arrest is made, it's unclear what the man's motivation might have been.
But one thing seems certain: The incident has shaken up Luk and others in the Chinatown neighborhood.
"By knocking out the lions teeth, they knocked out the lions' power," she said.
Anyone with information about the crime is encouraged to call the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago at 312-949-1000.