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Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

Fu Dog Pictures | Gallery Post | Single Fu Dog | Fu Lion

In Gallery Images postings on February 22, 2009 at 2:15 pm

White Fu Dog – uploaded February 22, 2009
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Click Here to go to the Gallery of 12 Fu Dog Blogger images.

I don’t remember where I got this piece from, or when. I’ve had it a long time. If you have any information on who the artist is or where it was made, or when, then let me know. I’m pretty sure it’s just a basic ceramic with a white fired glaze that ended up being shiny. It’s not a large piece (in inches: LxWxH: 7.5 x 3.25 x 5.25) and it’s pretty light-weight. There are no holes in the sculpture to verify it but I’m pretty sure it is hollow – maybe that makes it a slip-cast piece? The finished piece has some ‘beige’ yellowish-spotting (not a discoloration due to age or spills, but a distinct within-the-glaze spotting), due possibly to imperfect glaze constituents.

What drew me to this piece was the mane having up-turned elements along the neck – it was a distinctive touch I hadn’t seen before in a Fu Dog sculpture. I also appreciated the detailed coat markings covering the piece. These markings blend nicely with the elbow feathering coming off all four legs, and is repeated quite nicely in the up-raised tail. Both the tail and the mane share the in the artist’s stylistic treatment given to these heavier-haired points. The face and opened mouth is more feline in structure, reminiscent of a lions rather than a dog (but perhaps that is open to discussion), while the ears are more exposed and triangular than would be expected in a Lion-based image.

I chose to post this piece first since it is a stand alone piece (it didn’t have a ‘mate’ – if it had I probably would have purchased both), doesn’t have any accessories (like a ball or a cub or a ribbon or a bell, etc) and isn’t necessarily a strict ‘lion’ nor a strict ‘dog’ representation (though, in my own honest opinion, the image is overall more dog-based than lion). The timing of posting this piece fits in nicely with the discussions presented so far about Fu Dog history and image origins and interpretations. I can see this piece as being a ‘guardian’ figure/sculpture/image for a Buddhist temple in ancient China.

UPDATE: same day as post!

I have returned from a local antique store where, to my surpise, incredibly, they had the Fu Dog that I have only just today blogged about, and it’s part of a mated pair! The pair of them were priced at 88 dollars – I did not purchase them, yet. The hand-written price tag read “vinatge Fritz and Floyd.” Turning them over, both Fu Dogs had ‘Made in Mexico’ stickers stuck to one foot. The sticker also had a stylized FF (for Fritz and Floyd, I bet) next to the ‘Made in Mexico’ text. Underneath both dogs were a series of numbers that weren’t really legible. I have taken, and am posting, the cell phone pictures I took in the store – they are not particularly in focus, sadly. On the internet I could not find a reference or picture to these pieces, though there is a Fritz and Floyd represented; they could be the same company, maybe. I feel certain that the ‘glue-like’ pattern on the one foot of my piece probably was where the ‘Made in Mexico’ sticker was – I don’t really know why there are no numbers on the underside of mine, though.

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Fu Dog Blog | Reorganization of Pages | About | History | Gallery | Categories

In Home Page posts on February 18, 2009 at 8:50 am

New Gallery Page! New Links at the Gallery Page “Top of Page”!

I was considering the layout of Fu Dog Blog and the way that I have been using WordPress over the month and have decided some changes are necessary.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the static pages do not have a post-date on them so you can’t know when the information there was added or updated, therefore, I’ll be adding a ‘Last Updated: Date’ and I’ll use a different font color in order to organize and incorporate new information (in a previous post – a new post on the page would be in regular font display) in a way that is obvious and clear on those pages (so that new information will stand out from old information). I will still be posting the new information as regular blog posts that I then will copy as appropriate to the correct static page topic. This is still going to be a trial and error thing and may change once again.

Another thing I’ve considered, as I prepare to take pictures of one of my Fu Dogs, is a reorganization and rethinking of the gallery pages. Originally I was going to have only my collection of items, then, a friend said I ought to post all the images I have been using in a single place – a good idea I must agree. That made me think about the main Gallery page as a page that is the collected images from Fu Dog Blog posts that I make and I like that. But then, what about my ideas for displaying, slowly to be sure, my own Fu Dogs? I would need to create a page called My Collection underneath the Gallery for such a purpose, and that led to the idea of allowing a gallery for images ‘donated’ by you – and I like that idea too. So, I’m going to create, on the Gallery Page, a couple of links, one for my collection, and one for donated/linked images (it would be my intention, for these donated images, to link back to the donator through clicking on the picture). These new Pages will need text written for them too, initially.

I think I need to make the links to the sub-pages from the main page a bit bigger or more noticeable, and will do so. With this reorganization I’ll need to update/change the information presented on the main Gallery page and on the About page, and will do that too. I’ll need to advise anyone who wants to post their Fu Dog images here that I can refuse to post their image without reason, can use any I do include (for whatever reason) in my own posts and can comment as to their Fu Dog-ness at anytime (of course the rights to the image remain with the images owner).

In order to alert you that new information has been posted to the Gallery pages, or the About page, I’ll need to post to the blog a regular post that I will link to the appropriate page. I’m not sure how I’ll like this reorganization, but I’ll give it a try. It might take a day or more to get it going too, so please be patient. Thanks everyone for your interest in Fu Dogs and Fu Dog Blog.

This information was copied to my About page.

China | Fu Dog | Ancient Art | Lion | Tiger | Dragon

In China-heavy posts, Historical Slant postings on February 16, 2009 at 6:03 am

 

 

After researching and posting on ancient India and the lion iconography created in that continent (however briefly), I needed to research ancient China to get at the origins of the Fu Dog, as imported and modified from the Asiatic Lion. So, first I wanted to look at some of the older Chinese images of dogs and lions and fanciful creatures and such, just to see how the ancient Chinese representation of these known and imagined four legged animals was accomplished.

I found a book China: a History in Art in my SPSU library from which I took some notes and cell phone photos to post here. In looking for a dog picture I found the following, a ceremonial vessel in bronze from the late Shang period/dynasty/era located now in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington DC, Smithsonian Institution. I tried to find a picture of it but failed (the original photo copyright and credit of all images remain the property of the images owner). 

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The top of it features a dog. Not a Fu Dog and not a lion or mythical beast but an honest to goodness dog. Here’s a close-up (albeit a shabby cell phone one):

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I am glad to see that, in addition to other animals, the presentation of a dog is not a difficult or avoided thing for the early Chinese bronze artisans. Another image, which I did find on the Freer/Smithsonian site is this one of a single guard dog.  What I like about this image and the previous one is that the idea of a pair of guard dogs, or presenting a dog in a paired setting isn’t yet embedded in the mythos of creating such an animal talisman. At least not with the ‘common’ dog.

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I enjoyed browsing the Chinese collection of the Freer/Smithsonian and recommend it to everyone. Another image, of a lone animal which, whilst being a dog, has an artistic stylization that hints at the possibility of a Fu Dog hidden within, is below. The image is older than the indicated date from which Fu Dogs are reputed to have first been imported into China (more on that later, or, in another post). It is easy to see the burgeoning fanciful Fu Dog hair ‘accessories’ – the mane not quite a coiling traditional Fu Dog mane, the tail not really a tufted explosion of fancy only at its tip, the elbow curls not so prominent, the mouth not that of a lion nor the paws those of a lion. And yet, the image as a whole conveys a sense of the ‘Fu Dog yet to be’, at least for me.

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Before moving along to more interpreted imagery and ‘fantastic’ representations of ancient animals, I have few other images to share. The first is an item from the book China: Ancient Culture Modern Land (Cradles of Civilization) and contains a tiger representation with a blurb that reads: “This emblem of authority, a bronze tiger 7 1/2 in (19cm) long, with gold inlay and inscription, was probably intended as a token that conveyed permission to call out troops in an emergency. it is from the tomb of the king of Nan Yue, approx 122 BC.”

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No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get a better cell phone picture of the image, and I failed to find a good online reference to cite. What I liked about the image is that it is a tiger and yet it has a sinewy decorative quality – and it is not a Fu Dog, not even slightly. All the markers and design work for this piece speak directly to a history of representing tigers in a straightforward manner. Also, none of this tigers features have been transposed with Fu Dog imagery. At this point no dog image (nor any tiger image) looks like a blend of the two animals.

This following image, from the same book, takes the tiger motif and uses it as the two handles of a vessel (at least I’m guessing the interpretation of their placement is to indicate handles). In this image you can see how realistically the tigers have been represented. I couldn’t say if the pairing of the tigers serves any function beyond, if not literally then figuratively (ha), as handles. The blurb from the book reads: “Bronze 20 9/10 in (53 cm) approx. 108 B.C. in Yunnan Province, in a grave identified as one of the Kings of Dian (a subordinate kingdom of the Han Empire).”

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And that image is not the only one using Tigers in this fashion; here is another image found on Wikipedia where the Tigers are positioned on the vessel, again in ‘handle’ formation, but more crouched, more in the ‘about to spring on their prey’ posture. There’s even a close up available of one of the tigers and that close up shows the tigers non-Fu Dog like presentation; not even a hint of a Fu Dog even though the tiger has exposed ears, long tail, powerful paws and open mouth. I worry that the image might one day be removed and so I have pasted a copy of it below (all rights of/to the image belong to its owner, as does all images here pictured):

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Now for a few “more interpretive” images. First is a pair of tigers from that first book, China: a History in Art.

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These also are in the Chinese collection of the Freer/Smithsonian, however, they are only shown there individually so it looks like maybe they took a couple of pictures of the same piece. But, they exist as a pair – since my cell phone photo isn’t the best I’m providing the links to the images, first one and then the other. I really think that they are just a pair, probably made by the same artist, without any deeper meaning behind them (as a Fu Dog pairing has). Obviously the artist has taken some liberty in presenting the image of lion, in abstracting the features to meet some emotional or ideal objective. This artist did not consider the merger of a couple of species in this interpretation, whether real or imagined, and so this pairing (for me) in no way hints at the future Fu Dog.

This next piece, also from China: a History in Art is a Stone Chimera. The blurb reads: “Stone chimeras that guard royal tombs originated in Mesopotamia, but the style of this statue is thoroughly Chinese.” I don’t know where they got the idea to call it a ‘chimera’; is that what the artist carved on its belly, was there a tablet with the phrase ‘this is a stone chimera’ – unlikely at best. It is listed as being from the Nelson Gallery – Atkins Museum, Kansas City MO; I was unable to find an on-line image to link to and so here is the cell phone photo from the book:

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This sculpture has some interesting features. The wings coming up off the elbows and the exposed ear-like structures, and the large paws, all are reminiscent of the Asian lion images I’ve already presented in my India post. These features, as presented here, don’t appear to be solidly inherited from those stylizations – instead, they look to be fabrications or stylistic elements unique to this beast. The open mouth isn’t a snarling one, there is no mane apparent, no tail, and there is a goatee that as yet hasn’t shown up on other animal representations. I wanted to show this piece to illustrate how creatively artists of the time could become when creating a sculpture that may have an animal that hasn’t been seen before as its subject matter. If anything, this piece could be said to be a re-interpreted, fantasy image of a tiger (sans the tail), but maybe that’s just me.

This next piece takes the idea of a fantasy animal even further. It is from the book Ancient China – Great Ages of Man – A History of the Worlds Culture Series. I was able to find a clearer, if not larger, posted online image here, but I’ll post the cell phone photo I took in case that website disappears. The blurb from the book reads: “The rain spirit of the ancient Chinese was the dragon, the sacred symbol of the east and the ‘gatherer of clouds’ whose beneficence was essential to a rich harvest. This bronze is thought to be a lamp dating from the Han Dynasty, approx. 206 B.C.” I believe this piece is also in the Freer Gallery of art but didn’t see it online there (could be my oversight). (Just as an aside, most people are familiar with the Chinese artistic infatuation with Dragons, Dragon Imagery, and Dragon lore – since this post is about Fu Dogs I won’t be going into that rich and abundant realm of Dragon representation or interpretation.)

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I include this image to mention its snarling Fu Dog like face, the exposed ears and the wings coming off the shoulders. Also, the large paws, the mane, and the tail ending in flourish are indicators of future Fu Dog stylistic devices. This piece does not, though, speak to me of having the merging of two animals of which one is a dog – no, I see no dog in this ‘rain spirit dragon’ image. Below is an image I found online (I didn’t save the link to it so if you know where it came from please let me know so I can credit it) which does have a remarkably dog-like face and body but the remainder of the ‘dragon’ is distinctly bird like. Taken as a whole this is more a mixture of a dog and a flying creature and less like a guardian animal or Fu Dog. Particularly note its lack of mane and claw-like feet and strangely elongated neck.

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Finally, to end this rather lengthy posting of imagery, I take you back to that first book, yet again. This is the odd duck inclusion for me because it is so fitting. The blurb reads: “A lion carved from white marble is a rare work sculptured in the cultural peak of the T’ang period – early 8th century.” It too is listed as being from the Nelson Gallery – Atkins Museum, Kansas City MO; again, I was unable to find an on-line image to link to and so here is the cell phone photo from the book:

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Isn’t it a shame I couldn’t find a better online image? This lion, due no doubt to the period it was carved in, is far and away the most Fu Dog like creature presented on this page. And yet, it isn’t a Fu Dog – and even still, it isn’t a direct Asiatic lion either (as fully described in my last  post). The elements of each are present and yet disconnected as if the artist were trying to capture an Asiatic Lion through the eyes of Chinese stylistic history when creating a creature not seen before. This image is, I think,  around the time Fu Dogs were making their entry into the Chinese artistic lexicon and it is truly weird to behold such an image that, while being an Asiatic Lion, is more that just a direct animal-as-sculpture carving. The mane is there, the ears present, the tufted tail, the large paws, the powerful body, the teeth, the elbow wings, even a smallish goatee – and yet presented not quite as a Fu Dog; the imagery and imagination haven’t coalesced those features into a cohesive and artistic whole. Each element, even while successfully working for the whole of this sculpture, doesn’t transcend it – this is a Chinese interpretation of a lion, possibly from a written description (conjecture on my part), and nothing more. This image mesmerizes me, actually. I’d love to see it in person.

So, there it is, a brief and none-to-in-depth exploration of what I’m terming a history of animal representation leading towards the eventual creation of a genuinely unique talisman animal, the Chinese Fu Dog. The history of presenting four-legged animals, fantastic animals, and the artists willingness to add their own fanciful and culturally creative solutions to animal representation to achieve their desired outcome, have been shown (of course narrowly and briefly). The ideas later connected with Fu Dogs (that we take for granted now), of having two, having one be female and one male, having accessories like a ball or a cub, are topics I’m looking forward to exploring. If I come across more information pertinent to this post I’ll be certain to return and and post it here.

This information was copied to my History Page, under the China link.

Asiatic Lion | Persian Lion | Indian Lion | Fu Dog Ancestory

In Historical Slant postings, India-heavy posts on February 12, 2009 at 12:12 pm

 

A lion is a lion right? Well, that’s not quite true. After looking up some of the information I found about Fu Dogs originating in India (how Fu Dogs were based on the Asiatic Lion) and finding some Lion images in ancient art that had interesting correlations to Fu Dogs, I decided to look up the Asiatic Lion. I didn’t really think about the Asiatic Lion differing from the African Lion, and yet it does. I read several interesting websites that presented a lot of compare-contrast information.

 

For example, the Asiatic Lion is overall a smaller lion (both male and female) – I mean it’s still a big cat, but not as large as its African cousin. I wouldn’t say that this smaller size is responsible for any other attributes that differ, but I would think that it makes the likelihood of a young lion being seen or interpreted as a large dog more probable.

 

Another difference between the males is that the Asiatic Lion has a mane that is closer-cropped, meaning the mane is oriented around the Asiatic Lions head in just the same fashion as the African, only not as bushy, not as long. This shorter (and as a consequence perhaps seemingly denser) mane on the Asiatic Lion could, I think, be suitably interpreted in art as a tighter, coiling/roiling mane that encircles the animals head and runs down its neck.

 

As a consequence of the Asiatic Lion’s mane being shorter, the ears are almost always visible, poking out through the mane. In some images that I saw the ears almost appear to be flopping over but I didn’t find any reference to the Asiatic lion, in general, trending towards having floppy ears. The ears just look like some big dogs ears, only plusher!

 

An incidental difference, that at present I don’t see relating to Fu Dogs, is that the Asiatic Lion has a fold (or flap) of flesh running longitudinally along its belly. It’s present on all Asiatic Lions – I could find no information as to why it’s there; no one even speculated its purpose and, like I’m doing, just mentioned it and moved on. Maybe it’s explained on a website or in a publication I didn’t visit.

 

Of the final three Asiatic vs African Lion differences (that I’ll mention, perhaps there are more), two are quite pointedly related to Fu Dog imagery. The one that doesn’t seem to apply is strange, like the fold of flesh – it seems the Asiatic Lion has a spiny spine at the end of its tail, hidden in the tails ‘tuft’ of hair. I haven’t seen a picture of it so I don’t know if it is a nub or a spike or a sharp dangerous thing or just an incidental ‘hey I have some bone at the end of my tail.’ Maybe, like the fold of flesh, it’s also explained on a website or in a journal I didn’t visit. If I discover more I’ll return and post it here.

 

The first of the two differences that seem Fu Dog related is that the Asiatic Lion has longer ‘tufts’ of hair coming off its elbows than does the African Lion. I had no idea such a thing existed; tufts of hair coming off the animal’s elbows. These tufts most likely, almost certainly, are the originating reason for the mysterious ‘wings’ that I noted in my last post – the wings that I didn’t understand coming off the stupa lion’s elbows. An artistic license was taken to ‘grow’ this feature into a stylistic device, at least that’s what I’m saying. And as such, the same license possibly could have been taken for Fu Dog imagery.

 

The second of the two is related to the first – the Asiatic Lion has a larger tuft of hair at its tail-tip than does the African Lion. This really goes hand in hand with the elbow tufts in creating a fanciful interpretation of the ‘accessory’ hair on a Fu Dog. Many times the tail will end in a large or elaborate flurry of hair that could be (and I’m going to say most likely is) directly related back to the Asiatic Lion’s larger tail tuft.

 

So, just looking back at what was listed as the source for Fu Dog imagery – only in terms of historic artistic precedence, was the tip of the iceberg. Sure, the representative lions I found in the art of ancient India did lend themselves to a vague sense of being the ancestors of Fu Dogs, but they didn’t give a foundation of why certain features became customary when creating a Fu Dog ‘in the round’ so to speak. Looking back from the artistic rendering of Asiatic Lions to the lions themselves was really surprising – the interpretive license taken to represent the lions and then the further artistic stylizations to reach that of a Fu Dog image now make a certain amount of sense.

 

The Fu Dog’s coiling and normally close-cropped mane, the exposed and malleable appearing ears, the flaring elbow tufts and the elaborate tail tuft interpretations – all are now visible to me as having concrete origins in the Asiatic Lion. This doesn’t even cover the standard Fu Dogs snarling, lion-like visage and standard lion-like paws, but those features do, simply by association, make sense as imagery imported from the source material – a lion.

 

If you want to find some information out about Asiatic Lions then look it up – there’s a lot of information out there on the internet. One sad note is that the Asiatic Lion is almost extinct with estimates of wild and captured/zoo animals numbering less than 500, total.The only wild ones in existense are in a reserve in Gir India having less than 1500 sqaure kilometers of land.

 

This information was copied to my History Page.

Fu Lion | Fu Guardian | Fu Dog Origins | India

In Historical Slant postings, India-heavy posts on February 8, 2009 at 5:47 am

I was at my school library (Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta Georgia, USA) looking up Fu Dogs, gathering information in order to post this History blog. I had already done a lot of internet searches about Fu Dogs for Fu Dog Blog and had found references, on many sites, indicating that lions (India) were the initial inspiration for the Fu Dog – in particular statues referred to as ‘guardian lions’. So I thought, why not look up India’s and China’s historic representations of lions and lion images, and try and find out a little about how they were viewed by the cultures at that time. My school library is not the richest resource for this information. It did stand to reason that I wouldn’t find much lion-information in ancient Chinese history, and such was the case. That’s not to say there doesn’t exist a detailed history of ancient Chinese lion information somewhere – just not at my school library. Ancient India’s lion information was sparse (I mean, there wasn’t a book titled “Ancient India and the Lion Mythos”, which would have been great, alas). I did find a reference to lions being a symbol of power (not really a surprise).
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I found one photo, of a “Lion Capital from Sarnath, Polished sandstone,” that came from the Sarnath muesum. It was in the book, “Great Ages of Man: Historic India: A History of the World’s Cultures, Time Life Books” on page 72 and was said to have been erected sometime between 269-232 BC. Another website shows a good image of the Sarnath Lion Capital, probably from the museum, as well as a great image of a Stupa Gateway that has several lions (and elephants of course) presumed built in the 2nd century B.C. I wanted to show the Lion Capital from Sarnath precisely because of the visual ties I can make to Fu Dog imagery. The repeated coil-like mane, the strong toes, and the vaguely dog-ish face of the lions are really reminiscent of the Fu Dog of modern times. It’s also fantastic to be able to see both a font image as well as a side image on the one statue which shows the ‘snarling’ lip effect that can be seen on many Fu Dog statues and tattoos.
That’s the only lion image I could find in my school library for ancient India. On-line I did find more – in fact I did find that the lion does figure prominently in Buddhist history and lore for India as being a stupa guardian (here’s one, pictured to the right, that doesn’t display very Fu Dog like qualities. The blurb for this one reads, “Lion sculptures were placed at the gateways to the Amaravati Stupa. Lions represented power and strength and were meant to ward off evil spirits and protect the Stupa”).
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Another image, to the left, one that contains what I’d call a more flowery presentation of the lion-as-Fu Dog, I found at Le-Marquee.com. It shows the Fu Dog having a coiled-mane appearance and has the tail repeat the coiled motif. It also has some lightly embossed flame-like patterning along the legs that I have seen on Fu Dog representations. I don’t know the age for this piece; its blurb reads, “A relief panel in copper embossed, fire gilded and polychrome, featuring a lion, the guardian of the Buddhist temples”.
The Stupa gateway, mentioned earlier, (Great Stupa, Sanchi) has several lions represented that are also fantastic to see, even if only from the side. The Gateway as a whole is worth seeing so please visit the website and scroll down to see it. Of interest to me are the lion representations, clipped images of which I’ve posted. Quite interesting are the representations of wings on the upper statues (or what I take to be wings; they may in fact be something else so please let me know if you know) and the repeating pattern of the mane on the lower statues (it’s difficult to see but I think I can just make it out – maybe it’s wishful thinking). I have seen such wing-like imagery coming off the elbows, and the repeating coiled-mane effect, on the contemporary Fu Dog.
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This information was copied to my History Page, under the India link.