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).
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”).
amaravati stupa lion
lion - marquee magazine
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.
B_Sanchi_Gateway lions
This information was copied to my History Page, under the India link.
  1. I have been studying this subject since 1979 and have nearly two million pieces of information on the subject of the monumental lion and FU DOGS.

  2. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting!
    I definitely enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.
    I will remember to bookmark your blog and may come back down the road.
    I want to encourage one to continue your great job, have a nice holiday weekend!

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