Ashtray Fu Dogs

In Gallery Images postings, Home Page posts on July 11, 2009 at 6:57 pm

My last post fu-dog-blogger-collection, included an ashtray. That lovely piece prompted this comment from a reader: “… It’s interesting, because as guardians and whatnot, I would not expect a fu dog to be used to accessorize an ashtray. Do you think this is appropriate use of the fu dog form?” I also received an email from a reader and photos of her Fu Dog ashtrays (which I’ve been given the go-ahead to share with you). Exciting stuff.

The aforementioned comment also included a couple of other great questions that I’ll be covering/researching/sharing with you later, but, it’s the appropriateness of a Fu Dog as an element of an ashtray that I”m interested in here. It’s a question that never would have occurred to me – a Fu Dog on an ashtray – why not? On a pillow, shirt, out of clay, glass, stone, in a garden, on a table, counter, birdbath – why not? As a person infatuated with Fu Dogs I am glad to see them represented in any way, of any material, for any reason. And yet, there is, per the question asked, a consideration that can be made for the appropriateness of a particular representation (in just the same way that there is an ‘appropriate’ way of placing a pair of Fu Dogs on either side of a door – even if only so for the owner of the Fu Dogs).

This question gives me the opportunity to recap some of the pages and information already presented in FuDogBlog. To consider an appropriateness of presentation of a Fu Dog – the purpose for it being in-your-face so to speak – I have to ask for what reason is a Fu Dog presented. Early in this blog I posted fu-dog-origins-india in which I mentioned that Fu Dogs (though at that time they were more properly referred to as guardian lions) “were meant to ward off evil spirits and protect the Stupa”.

I then mention in the post covering fu-dog-pair how the split into male and female guardian lions, Fu Dogs, may have evolved. This is important in the discussion of the ashtray I posted since it is a single Fu Dog – rather uncharacteristic and thus unusual. However, the Fu Dog ashtrays I’ll display from the kindly contributor are in pairs – so interesting. Would it make a difference in the appropriateness of a Fu Dog on an ashtray if the presentation was in the form of a pair of Fu Dogs?

Next, I posted about cultural reasons for presentation and placement in the two posts fu-dog-ball-fu-dog-cub-flower-of-life-milk-paw and fu-dog-placement-cub-placement-ball-placement-yin-yang-harmony-balance. Could these play a part in the appropriateness of a Fu Dog on an ashtray? And I have since posted on the breeds that may and may not have been ancestors of Fu Dogs in fu-dog-ancestor-dog-breeds – could there be a reason that a dog would be on an ashtray and perhaps be stylized into a Fu Dog?

Now, what is the definition of an ashtray – what does it present in terms of function, how does one use it, what is the cultural ‘appreciation’ of an ashtray and is this compatible with a Fu Dog? Crazy questions I know; who doesn’t know what an ashtray is, and yet, let’s look at it semi-critically. One definition, from here, reads, “a receptacle for the ash from smokers’ cigars or cigarettes”. Other definitions read similarly (and I’ll disregard other uses of ashtrays as receptacles for gum, paper, and other garbage). So, who is a smoker? Don’t go – think about it – the person who smokes must have an image of themselves which would ‘color’ their interpretation of the objects they use when engaged in “smoking” that could be relevant. Culturally, an ashtray is seen as an object of necessity and that contains foul debris from the act of smoking – not the most sought after of objects, and somewhat reviled by those that don’t smoke as a disgusting thing.

So let’s say that there is a smoker out there who considers himself a tough cookie and thus his environment (that he has control over decorating) includes ‘macho’ objects that speak to him of his toughness. One interpretation of toughness could be achieved through the use/presentation of ‘indomitable’ animal figures, such as a bull, a lion, or even a tough breed of dog. This smoker could possibly want such a symbol on an item they use many, perhaps many many, times a day (as a reminder or an example) reinforcing and illustrating their own similarity with that symbolic icon.

A Fu Dog, as a guardian having a tough demeanor, as a protector of those around it, could be an image that the smoker sees in himself and, outside of the fact that it is on an ashtray – that it is associated with something that the smoker uses daily, would serve to reward the smokers own sense of toughness and protector-ship, and even, subconsciously or consciously, the smoker may see the Fu Dog as protecting the smoker from the ill effects that smoking is proven to cause. I would contend that the Fu Dog on this persons ashtray would need to be a ‘rough’ or ‘strong’ presentation of that image and not a lithe or playful image. In such a way I could see a Fu Dog on an ashtray. A person who does not share this smokers outlook would necessarily not view the ashtray in the same light.

Now, because the Fu Dog is a guardian lion, and people are of different natures and inclinations, different presentations of Fu Dogs on ashtrays would also make sense. A sensitive and shy smoker may have a shy looking Fu Dog on their ashtray, for example and for the same reasons a ‘tough’ smoker would have a ‘tough’ Fu dog on their ashtray. What I’m trying to say is that the symbolic meaning of a Fu Dog (a.k.a. guardian lion) transcends its physical appearance and can appeal to many peoples’ sense of who they are (or who they envision themselves as being). In such a case, it would be important if there were a lone Fu Dog or a pair of Fu Dogs – perhaps a lone Fu Dog speaks to a person who is a ‘loner’ or ‘self-reliant’ and pair speaks to a person who seeks ‘balance’ or ‘community’.

Therefore, beyond my joy at seeing any Fu Dog, my Fu Dog ashtray, having a watery and somewhat artsy feel, suits me (even given as a gift from a person who didn’t know my personality), or – here’s a thought, – do I push a watery and somewhat artsy feel onto the Fu Dog ashtray, an interpretation that isn’t there for someone else? Hmm. And this goes to the heart of the original question of appropriateness of a Fu Dog on an ashtray. It truly depends on the person and their definition of what the Fu Dog means for the object that is ‘attached’ to the Fu Dogs’ presentation (in this case an ashtray, but it could be a jewelry box, a picture frame, or a lamp). If a non smoker, or someone vehemently against smoking, saw an image that was attached to a foul and disgusting container that was at odds with their view of that image, then they may be utterly confused and/or upset. Without trying to create an offensive statement, rather one that illustrates what I’ve been writing about, how about a Virgin Mary or Gandhi or Mohammed or Jesus, or some other personage of high virtue, ashtray? That’s bound to make sense to some and not to others.

I think, however, in the grand scheme of things, where a Fu Dog is a guardian, the transmogrification of a smokers personality into that of a Fu Dog via their ashtray could be far fetched. But it was fun for me. That means, in general, I would think that a Fu Dog on an ashtray would not normally be appropriate any more so than a picture of a high official or revered figure on the inside of a toilet bowl. (But, that’s probably because I am not a smoker and find used ashtrays disgusting – thus in my opinion a noble mythic guardian would be wasted on such an artifact; though as a curiosity I do like it and wouldn’t part with the one I have.),


Below are the Fu Dog pictures sent to me that I’ve been given the ok to post, where there is a pair of Fu Dogs with ashtrays. They’re quite lovely to see. They each open in their own new window when clicked. What’s wonderful about this set of Fu Dogs is the story behind them. The contributor emailed me asking for information and I was glad to give anything that I could discover or already knew. She then spoke with a family member who had another pair in storage. This was important because I had suggested, without knowing, that her two looked to be of a different ‘set’ (made at different times or something like that) because of coloration and that one was larger than the other, marginally. Turns out the ones in storage were the mates to the ones held by the contributor. What a great revelation! There are now 4 happy Fu Dogs with ashtrays, two larger pair and two smaller pair. They really are nice. Enjoy. And thanks so much for contributing!


The original pairing, where the female is smaller than the male. Note the open and closed mouths (a traditional Japanese representation). It wasn’t until today that I realized the ashtray had a ‘floral’ (at least I think it’s floral) rim.


FU DOGS 1 My fu dogs 11



This is the pair of smaller Fu Dogs – aren’t they nicely colored, very handmade in appearance. The dark coloration is particular nice to my eyes.

Mine has the ruby eyes 1 Mine has the ruby eyes 3 Mine has the ruby eyes 4



This is the pair of larger Fu Dogs – also beautiful. The tails and the ears are very strongly interpreted. The coloration, while not as dark as the pair above, is particularly bright and rich looking to me; very nice! There is some unfortunate repair, but, all the pieces are accounted for – nothing’s missing.

Mine has the ruby eyes 5 Mine has the ruby eyes 6 (mine on right) Mine has the ruby eyes 8



Ahh, the whole family of 4 – I have to confess I really like seeing them lined up like this. I think it likely, seeing these all together, that this Fu Dog set was hand made just because the slight difference in height really isn’t cost-effective (but that cost effective is just a guess). It’s more likely that there were several ‘makers’ who worked in tandem but ‘built’ their own sets, thus the slight differences.

Mine has the ruby eyes 9 Mine has the ruby eyes 11 Mine has the ruby eyes 12


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: