Antique Pair of Fu Lions
Item No. 19074
19th Century, Buddhist, China
Lacquer over Wood with Gilt
12.5" x 3.5" x 7.25"
( 31.75 x 8.89 x 18.415 cm)
(H x W x D)
This pair of lacquered woodcarvings represents fu lions, symbols of valor and energy. As the lion is not indigenous to China, when Buddhism was introduced to China, artists were called upon to portray images of the lion as the defender of law and protector of sacred buildings, even though they had never seen a lion in real life. A prototypical model of the lion was adapted and used by artisans throughout China in which the lion is represented sejant--either with both of the fore feet on the ground or one foot raised in a menacing attitude in order to scare off demons. Since lions are guardians of Buddhism (The Buddha’s name Shakyamuni means prince of the lion clan), they were often made to look fierce, but often with a touch of whimsy. As is customary in carvings of fu lions, the artist here tried to achieve a fierce stance by depicted the lions with their mouths open and teeth bared and with bulging eyes staring out below bushy brows and pricked ears to ward off potential evil.
This is a pair of male fu lions, since they both hold their front paws on top of an orb or brocaded ball which represents the jewel of the law, a pearl, or an egg. Fu lions are symbols of superhuman strength and protectors and mounts of holy beings. Carvings such as these, or in larger sizes, would appear on home altars and as decorative architectural elements. In this pair, their large wing-like ears are pricked up in attention. The fierce stance is depicted by the lions’ open mouths, bared teeth, bulging eyes below bushy brows and pricked ears to ward off potential evil, but with tongue hanging out as a gesture of friendliness. The mane, which originates on his head and extends over his back, falls in tresses around his body. Each stands on a waisted pedestal bordered with stylized lotuses.
This pair of fu lions, symbols of valor, holds their front paws atop an orb or brocaded ball representing the jewel of the law or a pearl. Since lions are guardians of Buddhism, they look fierce, but with a touch of whimsy.
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