Fu Dogs – Chinese Temple Guardians


If you’ve been getting into Feng Shui or you’ve been reading up on Chinese culture and mythology, you must have come across the famous Chinese Fu Dogs. These graceful lion- or dog-like statues usually come in pairs and guard the entrance to Chinese temples. They are similarly placed in Feng Shui as they are believed to help protect the chi balance of the home.

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What are fu dogs?

Fu Dogs can come in a variety of sizes, but should always look as large and attractive as possible, relative to the security of the door. They are usually made of marble, granite, or other types of stone. They can be made of ceramic, iron, bronze, or even gold.

Any material is acceptable as long as you can afford it. Due to their size, fu dogs are usually quite expensive to sculpt, which is why only wealthy people and large temples were historically able to afford them.

Dog or Lion?

The term “fu dogs” or “foo dogs” is a western one and is not used for these statues in China and Asia. In China, they are called shi which is the Chinese word for lions.

In most other Asian countries, they are simply called Chinese Shi, and in Japan – Korean Shi. The reason Westerners call them “Fu” is because dog Fu is translated as “Buddha” and “prosperity”.


And these sculptures represent lions rather than dogs. This may seem confusing because there are no lions in China today but there used to be. Asiatic lions were brought to China a millennium ago via the Silk Road. They were mostly kept as imperial pets by the Chinese emperor and other members of the Chinese aristocracy. To rule that out the Chinese people not only started making statues of him – they bred dogs to look like him. Example. Other Chinese breeds such as the Chow Chow and the Pekingese are also often nicknamed “little lions”. And, interestingly, such dog breeds were also often used to guard temples – not only from robbers but also from spiritual imbalance.

So, it’s probably not so surprising that the Fu dog statues look more like dogs than they do like lions. After all, live lions weren’t native to China at the time and could only be seen by the wealthy. For most laymen, a “lion” was a mythical animal similar to a dragon or phoenix. Only, in this case, he thought a lion resembled a Shih Tzu.

Yin and yang

If you look closely at the Fu Dog sculptures, you will notice some patterns. Not only do they all look more or less the same, but they also often adopt the same stance. For one, they are seated and/or standing straight in the guard position. However, you’ll notice that one is often depicted with a ball under its front paw and the other with a small lion cub at its feet.

As you may have guessed, the lion cub represents <. 3>The motherhood and the ball represent the globe (yes, the ancient Chinese were more than aware that the earth is round). In other words, Fu lions are gendered – meant to be a female with cubs and a male to “rule the world”. Ironically, both look alike and have lush manes. However, this just brings up the fact that most Chinese people of the time had never actually seen a lion.

Yin yang symbol

Most notably, the linga nature of the lion. The Fu Lions talk about yin and yang philosophy in both Buddhism and Taoism. In this way, the two lions represent both the feminine (yin – life force of receptivity) and the male (yang – masculine force of action) beginnings and aspects of life. This balance between the lions helps them to protect the spiritual balance in the home/temple they are guarding.

Lions also usually have their mouths open which contain pearls (a female lion’s mouth is sometimes closed). This detail of the mouth suggests that the lion is constantly chanting Om – a popular Buddhist and Hindu mantra that brings balance.

Fu Dogs and Feng Shui

Naturally, to help keep the energy of your home in balance, Fu Dogs in Feng Shui should be placed to guard the entrance of the home. This will optimize the balance between good and bad chi in your home and harmonize its energies.

To achieve this, the male dog/lion should always sit to the right of the dog in front (right if you’re facing the door, left if you’re coming out of it) and the female should be on the other side.

If you have small Fu Dog figurines such as bookends, figurines, table lamps, or others, they should be placed in the living room on a shelf or table facing the rest of the space. Again, the male dog should be on the right and the female – on the left.

If the dogs/lions appear to be of the same sex (i.e. no cubs or globes under their paws), make sure they are positioned with their raised paws facing inward. If they don’t have raised paws, just put them side by side.

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