Guardian lion rings "Tang Shi". Silver 950 turquoise of Arizona, agate called "nan hong" (red from southern Yunnan)
open rings so adjustable to all sizes.
The "guardian lions" (獅"Lions of Peter"), sometimes called "Fu Dogs" (福獅) in the West, are a common representation of the lion in pre-modern China, symbols of protection in the "Feng Shui" philosophy, reputed to attract happiness and fortune. It is also a protective animal of the "Dharma" (法/"Buddhist law") and sacred buildings, symbolizing peace and prosperity. Presented in pairs, they sit at the entrance of imperial palaces and tombs, temples, houses of officials (rich dignitaries, nobles or "mandarins" [官]) of the "Han Dynasty" (漢朝), serving, for the latter, to testify to the social status of the residents. Today, lions-guardian couples are also used ornamentally, at the entrances to restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and other buildings.
As early as 208 B.C., the Buddhist version of the Lion was adopted in China as a protector of the "dharma" and was declined in religious art. Gradually, they were incorporated into Chinese architecture to embody the notions of power and authority by being placed at the entrance of the imperial buildings and then those of the temples. There are different styles of guardian lions that reflect the influences of different historical, dynastic, and regional periods. These styles vary in their artistic details and the care given to the ornaments as well as in the expressions, sometimes fierce, sometimes playful. Although the appearance and morphology of the guardian lions were quite varied throughout Chinese history, their appearance and posture eventually be standardized during the "Ming朝" and "Qing" (清朝) dynasties in the form they are known to be today.
In Japan, these same lions are better known as "ShiShi" (獅-lions"), "Kara shisi" (唐狮/literally "Lions Tang" or "Lions of China") or "Koma Inu" (狛犬/"Korean dogs) introduced to Japan by the kingdom of "Koryo" (麗"Koryo" ("Old Japanese" term). On the "Okinawa Archipelago" (沖縄諸島), there is also a regional variant called "Shisa" used in the same way as the Gargoyles in the West, aimed at repelling harmful influences.
In the same way as in China, there is the Koma Inu at the entrance to many "Shinto Shrines" (Jinja), Buddhist temples, noble residences or even in private homes. They are divided into two categories: the first, which appeared during the "Edo period" (江戸時代), is called "SanDo Koma Inu" (狛犬), and the second, much older, called "JinNai Koma Inu" (陣内狛犬). Designed to ward off evil spirits, these statues resemble those of Chinese lions, with a few details, but retain the symbolism and characteristics of them. Indeed, the male has an open mouth, while the female keeps it closed. This trend, however not of Buddhist origin, has a symbolism attached to the first and last sound of the Sanskrit alphabet. The open-mouthed statue symbolizes the sound of "Ah" (形/"A-Gyo"/first syllable in Sanskrit), while the closed-mouthed statue symbolizes the sound "Hum" (吽 形/ "Un-Gyo"/last syllable in Sanskrit), both representing the "beginning and end of all things". Together called "A-un" (吽), they form the "M" (唵/ॐ), a sacred syllable in several religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. There are, however, exceptions to the rule in which both Koma Inu have their mouths open or closed. However, other styles have two lions with a pearl in their respective mouths, just large enough to be contained without ever being able to be removed.
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