Archive for the ‘India-heavy posts’ Category

India | Guardian Lion | Harmony | Balance | Yin | Yang | Fu Dog Pair | Oracle Bones

In China-heavy posts, Historical Slant postings, India-heavy posts on March 12, 2009 at 11:04 pm

This is the first of four posts whose purpose is discussed here (please read that post for a brief background on why this post covers the content that it does). When I wonder about Fu Dogs being traditionally in pairs I think back to their source material and imagery to see if that has always been true. In ancient India, the Guardian Lion is normally presented in pairs of two or more. Any representation of pairs of Guardian Lions usually resulted in lions that were identical – (I specifically am being vague because, well, it is ancient history and what I could find may not be typical if I were living in India, for example). However, the Guardian Lions in ancient India weren’t always presented at doorways – per the Stupa gateways pictured earlier, as well as this one below showing four Guardian lions on each support (similar in timeframe to the “Lion Capital from Sarnath” I posted about earlier in the India post)(please let me know if you know it’s location):

stupa gate

Another good example of Guardian Lions in India is this picture taken by Michael Hudson showing four of them guarding a central ‘something’ – it probably is a treasure of Buddha or the like; forgive me for not knowing, and let me know if you do. This image is showing the Kalisa Temple at Ellora cave and, since I have clipped this image before hearing from him if I could use it here, I may have to remove it if he objects – but for now:


(I really like the image.) What I’m getting at with the above is that the Guardian Lion as presented in ancient India did not have accessories, nor was there the need to present an obvious pairing of male and female. There is no ball, no cub, no defining information whether the Guardian Lion presented is male or female (but if I could see them in person maybe there is genitalia). The presentation of the ancestors of Fu Dogs is not the male/female presentation that evolved in Chinese cultural presentations. It seems like such a natural thing, to have two identical Guardian Lions standing watch on the left and right sides of a doorway – what forces compelled early artists to create this ‘schism’ and present a male Fu Dog image and a female Fu Dog image?


This led me to look into Chinese culture for any reasons I could discover behind having a pair of Fu Dogs, male and female. I found that the ancient Chinese had a penchant for balanced interpretations through the principle of Yin and Yang. This give and take, the cycle that produces balance and harmony, requires two participants, complementary to be sure, and opposite. These principles and ideas, even if then only in their infancy, can be dated back to inscriptions made on “oracle bones” (reference here, a fantastic yin yang source) from the 14th century B.C. The below picture, from here, is a sample of oracle bones:



(From a conversation thread here about the origins of yin yang): “I seem to remember that the yin-yang symbol appears on bronzes of the Shang dynasty—perhaps earlier as an artistic motif on pottery. At any rate, it considerably antedates the Tang or Song eras”– that’s long before Fu Dogs. Yin yang has since evolved a famous image (which may have been the result of the Chinese characters for correspondence, a fish and a bird, intertwining (same reference as the last quote):(This following image is from the first referenced page)



The overall precept of Yin and Yang (quoted from here – an explanation of how each ‘principle’ is cyclic in nature, one turning into it’s opposite and back again) “… represent all the opposite principles one finds in the universe. Under yang are the principles of maleness, the sun, creation, heat, light, Heaven, dominance, and so on, and under yin are the principles of femaleness, the moon, completion, cold, darkness, material forms, submission, and so on.” From here is a wonderfully rich resource on Yin and Yang, where the following images came from (please visit them):

yinyangday yinyanqualities yinyanqualities2


So, by the time Fu Dogs made their advent into Chinese culture (via an imported religion and an animal that didn’t exist in China), the ideas of balance and harmony were already well developed and in play. It makes perfect sense, and I’ll say is reasonable, that they would interpret the Guardian Lion, when presented as a pair that are guarding some edifice opening, as one lion being yin and one being yang – thus one male and the other female. (I really spent some time reading about yin and yang history; it’s fascinating stuff, really! It’s a shame I didn’t reference all the items I read.)

I admit, I’m making a jump intellectually in ascribing the Chinese fascination/philosophy with Yin Yang and balance to the appearance of male and female Fu Dog pairs. I didn’t really find that said anywhere explicitly, but, part of looking up this stuff is making just that kind of association, so, I’m taking that liberty. The purpose here was to try to expose (for my own curiosity and knowledge) one manner in which Fu Dogs could have become differentiated, become male and female, as they traveled and were interpreted and stylized by their adoptive civilizations.

There are also cultures other than the Chinese (and sometimes even the Chinese) who do not seem to find it necessary to follow the male/female pairing notion (and those cultures will have their own post at some future date, most hopefully). For example, one website, here, in presenting a ‘Peking version’ of Fu Dogs, reads: “The Peking version represent the same larger statues found in China in the town square of Beijing. They are each shown frolicking with a ball or “chu” – This is the image (with the referenced pairing to the right):

  FooDogStatuary FooDog2

These two playful Fu Dogs above are not obviously male and female, so, the idea that an artist would only present Fu Dogs as a male/female pair isn’t exclusive; two “apparently same-sex” Fu Dogs can be presented in some settings – however they are always mirror images of each other. In fact it is rarely obvious, when Fu Dogs are presented in pairs, which one might be the male and which one might be the female (unless, as an upcoming post presents and explores, one is imaged with a cub or other signifying object or pose). If a person is well versed in yin and yang understanding, the placement of the Fu Dogs may shed some light on which might be the male or female of the pair – but only if the person placing the pair is also well versed in yin and yang (and this placement issue is also presented in an upcoming post).


This posting does not preclude a future post dealing with the phenomenon of ‘single’ Fu Dog entities and what they may mean and embody to those who produce and adore them. If these following Fu Dog images had a mirror image mate (which I could easily create by copying and flipping the pictures, but I won’t since these images were found as ‘solo’ Fu Dog images) would you be confidently able to say which was male or female, whether presenting two even demands that one be male and one be female? Being only a single Fu Dog, is it important to know if that single Fu Dog is male or female? The images came from, in order, here, here, and here.

HG130697 set-2-image110






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).
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.