Today is October 31st, and as demonstrated by the modern western celebration of Halloween (which, by the by, is a fascinating study if you don't already know the history!) all the way to the eastern veneration of spirits and ancestry, each culture has its own practices of superstition. Most people don't still take ancient myths and folklore seriously, but that doesn't stop us from avoiding black cats on Halloween and knocking on wood after a particularly risky statement. In fact, the enjoyment of superstition, myths, lore, and storytelling is key to our fascination with all things eastern and exotic.
So let me tell you the story of the Foo Dogs...
"Foo Dogs" is the corroded western term for fú shi ("prosperity lions") or Chinese Imperial guardian lions. These lions can be seen outside palaces, temples, and the private residences of the very wealthy. Lions are not native to the Orient but were brought from India and the Middle East through the Silk Road trade route. Both presented by diplomats as a tribute to the Han court and introduced into Buddhist teaching by the monk Hulin, the "shi" lion slowly but deeply became intrenched into religious and nationalistic iconography. Hulin taught that the lions are protectors of dharma, a Buddhist belief in the balance and circle of life. This teaching, merged with the animals' innate power and regal bearing, made them perfectly suited as imperial guardians. The lions are always presented in pairs: one male and one female: yin and yang. The male is placed on the left with his paw on the earth, depicting domination. The female on the left is presented with her paw on a cub, representing protection and nurture. The pair was thought to bring blessing and provide protection for the inhabitants of the structure over which they stood watch.
Is it any wonder that with such a rich backstory, Mayme LOVES anything Foo (we could be snobby and say "Fú")? Just look at this shot from her and her son's trip to China last year. She was smitten with the highly stylized, beautiful statues! Is it any wonder that she incorporates foo dogs into her decor scheme whenever possible?