Chinese guardian lions or Imperial guardian lion, traditionally known in Chinese simply as Shi (Chinese: 獅; pinyin: shī; literally: "lion"), and often called "Foo Dogs" in the West, are a common representation of the lion in pre-modern China.
Statues of guardian lions have traditionally stood in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, Imperial tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), and were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits. They are also used in other artistic contexts, for example on door-knockers, and in pottery. Pairs of guardian lion statues are still common decorative and symbolic elements at the entrances to restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and other structures, with one sitting on each side of the entrance, in China and in other places around the world where the Chinese people have immigrated and settled, especially in local Chinatowns.
The lions are usually depicted in pairs. When used as statuory, the pair would consist of a male resting his paw upon an embroidered ball (in imperial contexts, representing supremacy over the world) and a female restraining a playful cub that is on its back.
According to Feng Shui, correct placement of the lions is important to ensure their beneficial effect. When looking out of a building through the entrance to be guarded, looking in the same direction as the lions, the male is placed on the left and the female on the right. So when looking at the entrance from outside the building, facing the lions, the male lion with the ball is on the right, and the female with the cub is on the left.
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