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Stone Lions

Stone lions (also known as lion-dogs) are traditional symbols of power and protection found guarding not only temples but also hotels and institutions of consequence in China, especially banks and government offices. The male usually has his paw on a ball and the female has a lion cub with her. There is also a convention with Western-style lions in China that one (usually that in the male position) has its mouth open while the other has its mouth shut. Stone lions are also known as 'foo dogs' in the West.

Although often identified as Chinese, stone lions or lion-dogs can be found in Korea and Vietnam. The Japanese have adopted them too, but instead of a male and female lion they have a lion and a dog (koma-inu). The lion has its mouth open roaring and the koma-inu has its mouth shut. In one interpretation, this represents the Buddhist 'aum' ('a' plus 'um'). In Okinawa, stone lions (known as shiisaa) are a common and familiar sight.

This is a small collection of photos of stone lions that I've taken, mainly in China. They are not necessarily famous specimens; they are simply a few of the stone lions that I've come across. To get the low-down on Oriental stone lions and see a lot more photos, see the links page. There is a wealth of information out there on the Internet!

Note: These are relatively large images (generally 30-50k) and may take some time to download.


Stone Lions in Hainan (2)
Qionghai and Haikou
Some Slightly Different Stone Lions
Tibetan, Vietnamese, Ming
Links to sites about stone lions on the Internet.

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