This is the male Chinese Guardian Lion or Shi, otherwise known as a “Foo Dog” in Western terms. The male version of the “Foo Dog” was used to ward off spirits outside of temples. The male version had its mouth open as if he is inhaling, which represents life. The opposite of this one, the female “Foo Dog” would have its mouth closed representing death. This item was originally from China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). If one were to see any of these Chinese Guardian Lions outside of an establishment that meant the person was very wealthy or the family was of an elite class. In addition, the Male Chinese Guardian Lion would be displayed with its right front paw on a type of decorated ball simply called an “embroidered ball.” That embroidered ball had a geometric pattern carved into it that represented the flower of life and the symbolism was to emphasize the power of the Foo Dog.

Credit: Charles Moriarty