Huge, mythical beasts with piercing eyes and gigantic, roaring mouths stand guard at many of China’s most important buildings and ancient structures. The name of these imposing creatures is “Fu Dogs” or Rui Shi ("auspicious dog" in Mandarin), also know as Imperial Guardian Lions.
Started during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.), the tradition of placing two large statues of male and female lions near the entrance of an establishment was intended to ward off evil spirits and protect from enemies and thieves. These statues were created from marble, bronze, iron, and granite and the cost was expensive, therefore only the wealthy could afford Fu Dog protection. Because of this, Fu Dogs became a symbol of wealth and prosperity.
The male dog stands taller than the female and under his right paw is a ball representing the world and life. The female has a baby Fu Dog under her left paw, representing family. The female is placed to the left while the male is placed to the right of the entrance. Sometimes the male’s mouth is open and the female’s mouth is closed. Many variations of the Fu Dog exist all over China depending on different traditions and customs.
When the end of dynasties came about in 1911 A.D., the placement of Fu Dogs outside new homes, temples, and businesses became less common, although Fu Dogs can be still be seen near the entrances of many of the major landmarks in China, including the Forbidden City, the palace for the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Today, many Feng Shui followers and Chinese traditionalists still place Fu Dogs at the entrance of their front doors. Anyone can follow this tradition. A search of the Internet will lead you to hundreds of shops with Fu Dog statues of all sizes and made of any material you can think of. The price ranges from several thousands of dollars for magnificent, large marble statues to guard your home to $20 for beautiful, tiny Jade Fu Dogs that are a fun reminder of Chinese culture that you can place on your desk to keep people from stealing your supplies. A cute idea for an Asian-themed nursery would be to place small Fu Dog statues on each side of the entrance to the baby’s room to keep the baby safe and happy while he sleeps and plays.
No matter where you put your Fu Dog statues, rest assure that as long as you respect them, they will keep watch over you and your family.