This is the third 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). So, why does a Fu Dog’s cub or Fu Dog’s ball get placed under one or the other paw, and, why does the male/female pairing of Fu Dogs get placed on one or the other side of an entrance? In truth these are two very different questions. (Here is a picture of the pair at the gate to the Forbidden City, followed by a pair in front of a restaurant, from here):
The first question has quite a bit to do with the artist and that artist’s representational desire and freedom. Is the artist free to create a Fu Dog (pair) of his or her own design, or, are the elements of the design already prescribed by the commission on which the artist has been retained? If the elements are already decided upon, then what amount of freedom does the artist have, i.e. if there must be a cub and a ball, one with each of the pair, then has the artist been informed where to place them, and how, and with what detail? Then, subsequently, is the artist knowledgeable in the mythos and lore of the culture of the Fu Dogs being created and is that information going to be utilized in their creation, whether consciously or unconsciously, or is it going to be purposefully ignored or contorted/warped? For example, in the last post mention was made of the cub suckling from the female Fu Dog’s paw; is the artist aware of this myth- will the artist place the paw of the female on the cub’s belly instead of its mouth (as an unknowledgeable act or a purposeful twist)? (From here are a couple of artists carving Fu Dogs; are they following a myth-based subject representation, or just free-wheeling it?):
The second question, of eventual placement of the finished Fu Dog pair, depends not only upon the artist’s freedom and control of the final product, but also on the knowledge of the owner/possessor of the Fu Dog pair and their willingness to place the pieces according to proscribed lore. Obviously if the artist is creating a Fu Dog pair for commission or for public sale then the placement of them, left or right, may be suggested by the artist to the completed piece’s owner but the artist in no way can control whether the new owner will concur and place them as suggested. If the owner of the Fu Dogs is the artist or if the owner does not know the artist and does not get suggestions on placement, then that owner’s knowledge and willingness and ability to place the pair appropriate to ascribed ‘positioning’, and according to the Fu Dogs as designed and in hand, becomes paramount. (In this photo, would this person be able to guide you in suggested Fu Dog placement, from here):
Alright, with the ‘free will’ discussion dispatched, let’s get down to what I’ve learned of Fu Dog Cub and Ball placement first (followed by placement of the male and female Fu Dogs as a pair). This post is definitely built upon information presented in the first of these four posts as well as the second (the post previous to this one) so please click on their respective links if you’d like to read them now. I think, once again, the early evolution of where to place a Fu Dog cub or ball is rooted in the harmony and balance, as expressed and embraced by the Chinese of those eras, of Yin and Yang. Considering a knowledgeable artist, very well aware of Yin and Yang methodology in representation, who is choosing to follow said methodology (whether by commission instruction or their own interests), a decision does have to be finalized for either the cub or the ball: which one is Yin and which one is Yang?
Can the decision be made arbitrarily – yes; however, let’s try to be specific in one example of reasoning that leads to a well-founded choice. In all cases I have so far found, femaleness and femininity is Yin, maleness and masculinity is Yang. Such an early society valued male children above female ones, so, the cub should be interpreted as Male/Yang which therefore forces the definition of “Female/Yin” upon the cub’s ‘parent’ Fu Dog (maintaining harmony and balance of Yin and Yang), and, thus, the opposite Fu Dog, now identifiable as a Male Fu Dog, must have a Yin ball (necessary to keep harmony – one side has large Yin and small Yang so the other must balance and have large Yang and small Yin). Part 1 done, now for Part 2; which paw? The nuances of interpretation now play a tremendous role in this next decision and necessitates a discussion of placement of the female-and-cub Fu Dog and the male-and-ball Fu Dog to either side of an entrance (what is fantastic about the simplicity of Yin and Yang is its complexity – another example of the ‘one has the seed of the other’ concept). I have read (and now cannot find the reference – I’ll keep looking) that the cub and the ball should be on the inside edges of either side of the doorway that the Fu Dogs are placed to guard; this keeps the evil out and the good in (if reversed, if the cub and ball are on the outside paw of the Fu Dogs, then the Fu Dogs cannot effectively guard the entrance since their attention is away from the door). So, if the Male Fu Dog is placed to the right of the door (as you are facing the door, outside looking in) then the ball should be under the Fu Dog’s right paw and the Female should be placed to the left of the door with the cub underneath its left paw. This would be a single possible example, completed. (Here is an image that contradicts this, just to show I don’t have all the answers, followed by an image set as described, with a close up of the Female Fu Dog, from here):
Remember, in the last post, that there was some conflict in designating left or right as either Yin or Yang? Here is the best description I’ve found of how variably the idea of Yin and Yang being either Left or Right, can be presented, validly: “…your weight should be constantly variable but not completely one sided, i.e., when the right foot is forward and your weight is on that foot, there should be a distribution of 70% of weight on that foot, at that point your right foot is termed yang and opposingly your left foot will be 30% weighted and termed Yin. Now try standing in this stance; one foot in front of the other and feel what I’m talking about, now transfer your weight from your right foot to your left foot, you now have a yang left foot and conversely a yin right foot.” This can, perhaps, come into play with the placement of the Male and Female Fu Dogs and their cub and ball devices. If left is Yin then it could be acceptable to place the Female Fu Dog on the left since the Female is Yin (and thus the Male on the right – which is what we’ve done with the above example). However, it could be another, proper, consideration to place the male on the left (remembering to place the ball now underneath his left foot – at the inside edge of the entry) so that there is strong Yang on the Yin side, for harmony (and vice versus for the Female Fu dog). As well, this site here, provides this interesting quote that we can apply toward such a placement scenario: “Although it is correct to see yin as feminine and yang as masculine, everything in the world is really a mixture of the two, which means that female beings may actually be mostly yang and male beings may actually be mostly yin. Because of that, things that we might expect to be female or male because they clearly represent yin or yang, may turn out to be the opposite instead.” So, per the quote, perhaps the Male Fu Dog on the left is properly ‘more Yin’ – consequently the ball could then be considered Yin, as above, or, to harmonize with a more Yin Male, the ball could be a Yang device (which is done quite often). (Below is another image, from here, that has the odd Fu Dog placement ‘between’ a pair of double doors – are the Fu Dogs protecting the center person/image?)"
Is that the only interpretation? Of course not; the female and the cub could be considered a single entire entity, all Yin, and the male and the ball similarly could be considered together as a single Yang. In such a case it wouldn’t matter, in terms of left or right for the Fu Dog, which paw the cub or ball was underneath; what might matter more is the direction the door faces on which either side they might be placed and how that direction corresponds to Yin and Yang for entrance and exit and best effect for balance and harmony. For example, if the entry faces North (the Yin Direction) and walking into the structure (movement ‘in’ can be considered a Yin movement, here) then the Fu Dogs may need to both take on more Yang devices, so, in this case, the ball may be Yang as well as the cub as well as the Male and Female Fu Dogs. Such a discussion of placement and harmony leads toward the Chinese art/science of Feng Shui, which is (defined here as): “Feng Shui ( pronounced fong sway ) is an ancient science based on the belief that everything in the universe is either positive or negative energy. ( Yin and Yang ) This energy is called Chi, and the science/art of Feng Shui is the use and arrangement of positive objects to counteract the negative objects in your environment.” Here is a link having 10 symbols of Feng Shui, listing Fu Dogs as number nine – they may or may not be in a particular order. Incidentally, Feng Shui also places the Male Fu Dog sometimes on the left of the door, sometimes on the right (and the Female vice versus); it just depends on which reference you’re reading. (Here is a feng shui device called a Ba Gua mirror – there are many variations; I chose this one for its central Fu Dog image):
Quite honestly, I am enamored of the cycle of Yin turning into Yang and back again, presented here as: “Thus the two opposites of yin and yang do not exist as an entity in a still and unconcerned state. They constantly interact with each other, hence the alteration and development of an object.” Such a realization causes the initial placement of all Fu Dogs to have great meaning – but then, after months or days or years, the cycle of Yin and Yang cause the meanings to change and then change again. Perhaps this change is merely perceptual in nature, that of the viewer, and I’m ok with that. (Here is an image that incorporates the quadrants of the Ba Gua with Yin and Yang ‘flow’):
Now, after three posts, the creation of Male and Female Fu Dogs has been presented, the discussion of how and why and what the cub and the ball underfoot means for each Fu Dog, and the interpretation and knowledge necessary for proper balanced, harmonious placement of the pair has been explored (at least one understanding for all the mentioned topics, anyway). Next will come an investigation of the other attributes of the Fu Dog: bells, tassels, curled manes, facial features, postures, and the like.