Fu dogs are ancient creatures, guardians of imperial China. Sometimes also called Chinese lions, these stone sculptures have guarded the entrance to temples and palaces for centuries. Placed in front of the doors, they send a clear message to all those who would enter the building: “We are here, and we guard this place! “. Thus, the dog fu is part of the long and glorious history of China and Asia. Like many elements of Asian culture, this figure has a deep meaning (which we will try to decipher in this article) and derives from ancient traditions. Thus, unraveling the meaning of the Chinese lion can be an effective way to better grasp the soul of the Mandarin people.
The “Lions of China”, “Chinese Guardian Lions” or “Foo Dogs”
Description of This Chinese Lion
Traditionally, fu dogs are massive sculptures made of stone and mounted on heavy bases decorated with engraved symbols that specialists call xumizuo.
When we look at their physique, it may be difficult for us to make the connection with the lion we know, and this is quite normal!
In reality, despite their nickname of Chinese lions, these creatures are not related to the king of the jungle.
Their appearance comes from myths where they are described as imposing dogs with bulging eyes and mischievous smiles, whose curly fur and roaring mouths open wide and command respect and leave a feeling of great ferocity.
Take a look at these exclusive Foo Dogs statues that we offer on our website and you will see better what we mean.
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Most often, fu dogs live in pairs (composed of a male and a female), thus ensuring balance and harmony. Sometimes, a large pearl is placed in their mouth to represent their sacred breath.
As we have already mentioned, the material most often used in their construction is stone.
However, some models can be made of bronze, marble or even gold and jade. Thus, a dog fu statue can be used by its owner to display his wealth and power.
Despite many similarities, Chinese lions can have different styles depending on the period in which they were designed and the dynasty that ruled the Middle Kingdom at the time.
For example, statues erected during the Han Dynasty or during the Tang period are large, imposing and massive. Those of the Yuan Dynasty on the other hand will be thinner and more muscular. The last dynasties of imperial China (namely the Ming and the Qing) rather produced fu dogs with a calm and peaceful look, as if to show a certain wisdom acquired during centuries of existence.
Use and Meaning of the Foo Dog
The lion as presented here is one of the most popular creatures in Chinese mythology.
Many legends present him as a benevolent being who would work with man to chase away evil spirits.
Chinese traditions and customs are numerous, varied and sometimes even contradictory (for example, you will find some of them here which show you the complexity of the subject).
Thus, determining the precise meaning of the Chinese lion is a real challenge. However, we have tried here to compile some elements of answer commonly accepted by the Chinese themselves.
It is clear: the Chinese lion is a figure full of symbolism. Often, as we have said, they are found in pairs.
The female is often depicted with her paw on the back of a cub, illustrating the yin side, the inner power of the feminine pole of the world. The qualities associated with her are quiet strength, compassion, caring for loved ones and healing.
She is therefore the female who protects the building in front of which she stands, and those inside.
Next to her, we have the male who instead places his paw on an imperial sphere, a great symbol of power and influence in imperial China. You guessed it: this evokes the yang side, the will to conquer and dominate. The associated qualities here are strength, power, courage and ferocity.
He then uses these abilities to ward off evil spirits and energies.
This duality is particularly well marked in this pair of Fu dogs stone statuettes, the two dogs being perfectly symmetrical to each other if not for the fact that their paw is over the top.
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We can analyze this by saying that it is he among the pair of fu dogs who repels negative energies and demons.
Thus, like yin and yang, both Chinese lions balance themselves and work together to give us the greatest benefits.
The Hunter of Negative Energy
The fu dog apparently has the ability to “cleanse shar chi“, a negative force that Chinese sages identified as emanating from sharp corner objects, crowds that are too compact and structures that protrude from the ground in an unnatural way (such as street lamps).
This may seem a bit “esoteric” to us with our Western glasses, but this idea of energy flow being facilitated or, on the contrary, prevented by decorations and furniture is an ancient idea of the Chinese people.
They have even been studying this question for thousands of years, having developed a real expertise!
Concretely, Chinese lions are powerful entities whose perception and ability to discern good and bad intentions make them excellent guardians.
Excellent yes, but also fierce and sometimes wild, hence the need to show them respect.
Thus, this ability to dissipate negative energy would explain why the Chinese initially placed Foo dogs at the entrance of their temples and or at the feet of their statues. Here are for example some pictures of Chinese lions found in the famous Forbidden City.
Seeing their effectiveness as Chinese good luck charms, the phenomenon would then spread to the palaces and houses of rich merchants.
A Balancing Element
In the same vein as the previous theory, the fu dog would have the capacity to balance energies and, by the same token, temperaments that are too impetuous. Thus, its simple presence would reduce the number of thefts, fights and even road accidents.
By this link with balance (the famous “Middle Way” so dear to the Asians), the Chinese lion would also keep away people with too bad souls whose only intention would be to harm.
From this point of view, placing this type of Chinese lucky charm in front of the doors of a company or a business could keep away thieves and swindlers, promoting in fine the prosperity and wealth of the owner.
In fact, this idea is perhaps more widespread than we may think…
Restaurants, hotels, factories, offices: many of these places choose to trust the dog fu. Simple traditions for some, others claim that the reason for this would be much more concrete and down to earth.
Meaning of the Chinese Lion in Feng Shui
Given the scope of the phenomenon, many different traditions have been interested in dog fu.
Among them, Feng Shui has been interested in the influence of the material on the powers of the dog fu and teaches us some interesting ideas.
Placing a pair of Chinese metal lions next to a door facing north or west is a good idea. Indeed, this type of door is linked to the water element… which will benefit from the metal element of the statues to potentiate its effects.
Placing ceramic fu dogs (white if you want to take advantage of their effects) inside a living room will bring a graceful touch to the room. In fact, their curves and shapes tend to make the energy more delicate.
Jade is, according to Feng Shui doctrine, a powerful material whose mere presence protects us from many evils and curses.
A dog fu made of jade will therefore be a powerful Chinese charm of protection that will find its place just about anywhere.
An Emblematic Example: the Guardian Statues of the Forbidden City
The many tourists who visit China each year have no shortage of wonders to visit.
From the Great Wall to Buddhist temples and pagodas, to the beauty of ultra-modern mega cities, there is something for everyone.
In the middle of all this, the Forbidden City has a special meaning.
Built about 6 centuries ago during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when the emperor decided to move his capital, this is one of the best preserved and most magnificent tourist sites in medieval China.
While a lot of treasures were destroyed or moved after the British colonization in the 19th century, the Forbidden City is an exception with the numerous works of art it has preserved.
What does this have to do with the dog fu you may ask. The answer is actually quite simple.
The most famous (and probably the hardest to miss) of these treasures are undoubtedly the two statues of guardian lions that are placed at the entrance.
The male lion, with his paw placed on the globe, represents the emperor’s domination over the whole of China.
The lioness plays with her cubs, showing the fertility of the country’s land and rivers.
For many specialists, the fu dogs of the Forbidden City represent the most grandiose thing in the Middle Kingdom.
Some Additional Tips on How to Properly Place Your Foo Dogs
Before we finish this article, we had to give you some additional tips.
To ensure that their effects are favorable to you, it is imperative to respect certain rules when you place your pair of Chinese lions in your home.
Tradition teaches us that the misuse of this type of tool can have sometimes catastrophic consequences.
The field of Chinese lucky charms (of which you can find a few here) is rich and can offer us great powers, it is clear. However, we must keep in mind that a bad use of one of them can be dangerous; even very dangerous.
In short, here are the main guidelines we have to give you:
- Fu dogs should always be associated in pairs to ensure their harmony. To separate them is a huge mistake.
- They need to be placed on a perfectly horizontal and flat surface. This is the reason for which they are often mounted on pedestals or stone bases.
- If you decide to place them next to your front door, the Chinese lions will have to be placed on either side of it, again according to a certain search for balance.
- Specifically, the male should be placed to the right of the door, and the female to the left.
- You can position your fu dogs either outside or inside. In this second case, however, they will have to stay in the same room. (Even if they are close in distance, they should not be separated by a wall or a doorpost for example.)