Fanciers of Chinese Foos claim that they are the descendants of the ancient Chinese dogs that were considered sacred among the religious and elite. While there is some controversy as to whether today's Chinese Foos are in fact the same breed of dogs of legend, the truth is that they do strongly resemble the dogs represented in art and sculpture of ancient China. In this article, we'll look at the Chinese Foo dogs of legend "the sacred guardians".
Chinese Foos can be traced to the Han Dynasty, which was from 208 BC to about 221 AD. Art from this time shows representations of dogs that look eerily similar to today's Chinese Foo. Later, during the Tang Dynasty which lasted from 618 to 917 AD, the dogs were known to be given as royal gifts. But it wasn't just their connections to royalty that made these dogs so special to the Chinese.
Chinese Foos were beloved among the Chinese because of their resemblance to lions, which are a sacred animal according to the Buddhist religion. Because of their domesticity and easiness to train, Chinese Foos became an acceptable replacement for the largest of all felines, and gave a powerful warning to those that wished to do harm to typically quiet and safe places such as Buddhist temples or private homes. Chinese Foos became known as the protector of sacred places such as these temples, as well as a defender of the law, as they also guarded government buildings. Eventually it became common to see Chinese Foos protecting the entrances of tombs from evil spirits.
Later, representations of Chinese Foos became popular among the elite in the form of statues at the entrances of private homes and estates. Typically made from expensive materials such as marble, they were commonly seen protecting the homes of the wealthiest part of society. Traditionally, Chinese Foo sculptures were seen in pairs of one male and one female. The male typically had one paw resting on sphere, meant to represent the world, while the female had one paw resting on a cub. It was said that the male was in charge of protecting the building itself, while the female was charged with protecting the people within the building.
Eventually, these sculptures became popular in a wide variety of sizes, colors and materials, making them more accessible to people of all incomes. They were typically created with a wild, devilish look in the face, with eyes wide open, which suggests that they were meant to discourage both evil spirits and those that wished to disrupt the harmony of the sacred building or home. Chinese Foo sculptures can still be seen in China and throughout Asia.