A pair of late 19th century Japanese carved granite Dogs of Foo

A pair of late 19th century Japanese carved granite Dogs of Foo

Circa 1890
Stock Number: 11680/GSO
Height 139.00cm [54.72 inches]
Width 67.00cm [26.38 inches]
Depth 37.00cm [14.57 inches]

Along with lanterns, bronzes and even the occasional tea house, the craze for all things Japanese at the turn of the last century also led to a market for these Temple Guardians.

Variously known as Guardian Lions, Fu Dogs, Dogs of Foo, Rui Shi, Lion Dogs, Komainu, it kind of goes on and on... These animals are in fact Lions! So why do we know them as Dogs? These guardians of Imperial China’s palaces, temples, tombs etc were imaginary lions as no one had ever seen a real lion first hand around the time of the Han Dynasty in 206BC- 220AD, when they first started to appear, and so the Lions look more like a rather fierce Shi Tzu or Pug.

Attributes abound and I will admit that I am not fully up to speed with all the details, such as the armour like garments and plated tails for instance. What I can say is that the pair are female and male – left and right respectively. She has her mouth closed – and exhalation representing depth and has a cub under her paw, symbolically protecting the dwelling inside. He is protecting the building and with his mouth open annunciating “om” in China, or inhaling in Japan representing Life – all this with a pearl that cannot be taken out, in his mouth.

Both are raised on plinths with carved scenes of idyllic natural beauty in the form of cranes on a lake, deer and mountain cats in a landscape, and of course a fire breathing dragon for good measure.