Wailea Daily Photo

Wailea Daily Photo

Photoblog of Maui, Hawaii

8/21/07

Guard Dogs

Placed beside my front door are two fu dogs and plants in planters. The hot winds are so strong that the plants often don't survive here, and I've had to replace them a couple of times.

"Imperial guardian lions, also called Fu Lions or Foo Dogs, and called Shi (獅) in Chinese, are powerful mythic protectors that have 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 BC-220 AD), until the end of the empire in 1911. In Greater Tibet, the guardian lion is known as a Snow Lion and similar to japanese shishi. Imperial guardian lions are still common decorative and symbolic elements at the entrances to restaurants, hotels, and other structures. In Myanmar they are called Chinthe and gave their name to the World War II Chindit soldiers.

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. However, in modern times less expensive lions, mass produced in concrete and resin, have become available and their use therefore no longer restricted to the elite.

The lions are generally present in pairs, with the male on the right and the female on the left. The male lion has his right paw on a globe, which represents his "feeling the pulse of the earth." The female is essentially identical, but has a single cub under her left paw. Symbolically, the male fu dog guards the structure, while the female protects those dwelling inside. Sometimes the male has his mouth open and the female closed. This symbolizes the enunciation of the sacred word "om." However, Japanese adaptions 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." Read more here.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Steve Buser said...

I really enjoyed the commentary on the Fu Dogs, thanks

--steve buser
New Orleans Daily Photo

August 21, 2007  
Anonymous Gen said...

Thanks , I did not know so much about Fu dogs other than it was a symbol of protection!

August 22, 2007  

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