Chinese Guardian Lions (Fu-Dogs)

Forbitten_City_Beijing_Dragon_Male_MetallSecond only to the dragon in greatness, these dog-like lions, known as fu-dogs, are entrenched in the traditions of Asian culture. Originally brought into Asia as gifts to emperors, lions were elevated to a divine status with the introduction of Buddhism in ancient China. Acting as guardians, fu dogs protected temples, official buildings and homes.

Chinese guardian lions are also called Fu (Foo) Lions, lions of Buddha, or sometimes stone lions (石獅, Pinyin: Shíshī). In pre-modern China, it was believed that guardian lions have powerful mythic protective powers.

Therefore, they traditionally stood in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, temples, emperors' tombs, government offices, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy from the Han Dynasty (206 BD -220 AD), until the end of the empire in 1911.

Nowadays, pairs of Chinese guardian lions are still common decorative and symbolic elements at the entrances to restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and other structures, with one sitting on each side of the entrance.

Forbitten_City_Beijing_Dragon_MaleStone lions are not only common in China but also in other places around the world where the Chinese people have immigrated and settled, especially in local Chinatowns.

The lions are traditionally carved from decorative stone, such as marble and granite or cast in bronze or iron. Because of the high cost of these materials and the labor required to produce them, private use of Imperial guardian lions was traditionally reserved for wealthy or elite families.

Indeed, a traditional symbol of a family's wealth or social status was the placement of Imperial guardian lions in front of the family home.

Lions of Fo are always created in pairs, with the male playing with a ball or globe and the female with a cub. The male sits on the left and the female on the right.


Forbitten_City_Beijing_Dragon_FemaleThe male lion has his right paw on a ball or globe, which represents the "Flower of life" The female is essentially identical, but has a single cub under her left paw, representing the cycle of life. Symbolically, the female fu lion protects those dwelling inside, while the male guards the structure. Sometimes the female has her mouth closed, and the male open. This symbolizes the enunciation of the sacred word "om".

However, Japanese adaptations state that the male is inhaling, representing life, while the female exhales, representing death. Other styles have both lions with a single large pearl in each of their partially opened mouths. The pearl is carved so that it can roll about in the lion's mouth but sized just large enough so that it can never be removed.

There are various styles of imperial guardian lions reflecting influences from different time periods, imperial dynasties, and regions of China. These styles vary in their artistic detail and adornment as well as in the depiction of the lions from fierce to serene.

XHLions Chinese Temple Lions (pair)

Lion Chinese guardian lions temple dogsCarved out of granite
Female Lion with cub, male lion with globe under the paw
Stand with ornaments

Elements: 2 pieces/pair
Depth: ca. 45 cm
Height: Stand ca. 40cm, Lion ca. 60 cm
Price on request
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This page was last updated April 2022


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