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Home: Decorating with Foo Dogs

I keep going from one obsession to another!  Lately, I’ve become enamored by Chinese Guardian Lions, often called Foo Dogs (or Fu Dogs) in the West.  They are a common representation of the lion in Pre-Modern China, and there they guard gates and entryways into large buildings and temples in China (where they are called Shishi) and Japan (where they are called Komainu).  They were believed to have powerful mythic and safety benefits.   Here in Montreal, you can see a set of white Guardian Lions on both sides of the decorative gate on Saint Laurent Boulevard.


Traditionally, Guardian Lions are large scale statues carved of stone or made of metal (bronze or iron).  Smaller decorative versions can be found made of pottery and usually are glazed in white, blue or are brightly painted. They are nearly always in pairs and represent the male and the female, the ying and the yang.  The male is generally shown with a curled mane and resting his paw upon an embroidered ball that traditionally represented supremacy and pwoer.  The female represents nurture and the arts and restrains a playful cub that is on its back.  Both look ferocious so as to frighten away bad spirits.

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Smaller Foo Dogs can guard your own house.  Within these interior pieces, generally it is the male that is represented since he makes a showier statuette.  You need to remember that they still always come in pairs and look great as bookends, lamps, vases, or as statuettes leading into a main room in your house.

Want to add a set of Foo Dogs to your own interior?  They go wonderfully with Great Gatsby-style Art Deco furnishings, which I talked about here.  They also go wonderfully with Hollywood Regency Style interiors, which I discussed here.  Both types of décor are richly augmented by a touch of the Asian Influence, and in fact within the period of their heydays “Orientale” or “Chinoiserie” styles were really popular.  Another option is to brighten up an otherwise monotone room with the hugely trendy blue glazed version.

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