Foo Dogs

Foo DOGs are NOT Dogs. They are actually Lions!

  • They originated in China:  shi, meaning lion or shishi … stone lion. 
  • In colloquial English they are known as lion dogs.
  • Resembling the Chow-Chow and Shih Tzu led them to be called foo dogs in English.
  • These Imperial lions are a traditional Chinese architectural ornament. 
  • They were originally displayed outdoors. 
  • Chinese guardian lions stood sentry in front of palaces, temples, and homes of elite. 
  • Also used in palaces and tombs – and spread to other parts of Asia – as well as Japan.
  • They could be quite massive and imposing with their wide open mouths in midroar. 
  • It was much later that smaller ones were produced.

Foo Dogs are used in imperial Chinese palaces and tombs, the lions subsequently spread to other parts of Asia including Japan. Meant to be in pairs. Foo dogs are symbolic, protective statues – one is female and one is male. The female represents yin and symbolically protects the people dwelling in the home, while the male represents yang, protects the structure itself. Each detail of the is symbolic. You can tell their gender by examining what’s beneath the paws. The male holds a ball, the female holds a puppy. The ball represents the world and the puppy represents nature or a nurturing spirit. If it has an open mouth and the other has closed one, this may represent the in-and-out breath, or the sound of “om.”

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