Foo Dogs

March 3, 2011

Foo dogs have guarded temples and homes of royalty and wealthy families for centuries.  typically occurring in pairs, placed at gated entrances, for example, seated and yet always ready… they protect and ward off evil sprits. The Foo Dog to the right is typically thought of as male, with the mouth open a bit, one front paw resting on a sphere, which is often carved as open latticework and represents both heaven and the totality of Buddhist law. On the left is the female, mouth closed, paw resting on a small cub, typically shown upside down on its back, which represents the earth.  The Foo Dog of Asia has also been called the “Lion of Buddha” and that name is actually much more accurate, since it is a lion and not a dog at all. Known also as Fu Dogs, Fo Dogs, and karashishi (in Japan), they are used extensively in Asian art, and sculpture. But, the Lion of Buddha may not be Buddhist in origin. The local Shinto religion of Japan, which predates Buddhism, also has a lion protector, with a red-head, who drives away evil spirits and brings health and wealth. No matter the origin though, be it Chinese or Japanese, Buddhist or Shinto, the definitive Foo Dog is fundamentally protective, strong, and courageous. It is even said that when they are cubs, their mothers will throw them from cliffs, so that only the strongest survive.

 

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