Pair of Hand Painted Chinese Vases with Foo Dogs and Inscriptions
China, early 20th century
17 x 8 x 8 inches
Painted in iron red, these Foo Dogs or Imperial Guardian Lions are strong Feng Shui protection symbols which were traditionally placed in front of Imperial palaces, temples, and government offices. They were also a traditional symbol of family wealth and social status and were placed in front of wealthy homes.
It is widely accepted that foo dogs were created sometime after real lions were presented to the Han Dynasty court (202 BCE-220 ACE). According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, earlier depictions of foo dogs were more in keeping with the look of stylized lions.
The mythology that evolved around the foo dogs revered the creatures as the ancient mystical protectors of heaven. Pair of enormous foo dogs was believed to stand guard on either side of the gates at the entrance to heaven.
Foo dogs are believed to be so fierce that they will scare off all malevolent spirits and prevent them from entering the kingdom of heaven. Pairs of foo dogs guard the entrances to Chinese palaces, temples and even garden gates. Any place considered important or sacred is usually protected by a pair of foo dogs, one male and one female.
Foo Dogs are usually displayed as a couple. The male Foo Dog is holding a globe under his right paw, which signifies control over his domain and protection of his home. The female Foo Dog is holding a cub under her left paw, signifying strong maternal protective instincts.
Besides serving as protectors against evil and inauspicious energies from entering your home or business, foo dogs are also considered auspicious symbols of wealth; a pair of protectors can boost and stabilize the positive chi energies in your home or business.
It is interesting to note that the lion is not an animal indigenous to China. It is believed that travelers to China brought stories about lions as Buddhist protectors of Dharma. Statues of lions were modeled in Feng Shui based on the travelers' descriptions and drawing inspiration from native dogs.