This month, we feature above five examples from our collection of Qilin and Fu Lions. These mythical animals are among the most popular depicted in Chinese porcelain and works of art. They are distinct from each other, but in artistic interpretation, several of their traits have often been blurred and interchanged.
Qilin are composite mythical creatures, with the face of a dragon, a single horn, feline body with bushy tail, and legs like a deer with hooves. They are auspicious creatures, omens of good fortune, good governance, and prosperous times. They were also associated with the bearing of children (sons in particular in traditional Chinese culture). Some Qilin are depicted with a Wang symbol (meaning Imperial) on their foreheads that reflect their rank and importance. They are found in painted decoration as well as sculptural works on their own. As sculpture, they are sometimes presented in pairs and serve a meaningful but decorative function. And in some instances, they also serve a functional purpose such as incense burners. In whatever form, they are one of the more prized and beloved forms in Chinese art.
Fu Lions (or Fu Dogs) in Chinese are known as Shishi and have an old iconographic history. They are traditionally found as pairs in monumental form outside of temples, palaces, grand homes, and official buildings- where they serve as guardian figures. While the architectural Fu Lions are often two males, the smaller interior/ decorative ones are most often a paired male and female (the male with brocaded ball; the female with cubs). Originally, Fu Lions (true to their name) were more leonine in appearance. But over the years many took on physical aspects of playful dogs (like Pekinese), hence the name Fu Dogs. And, of course, some display an interesting combination of both. Non-monumental versions were used decoratively or as “good luck” figures in interiors. They became very popular in the early trade with Europe as well, from the Ming dynasty onward.
Whether Qilin, Fu Lions, or Fu Dogs: we are always pleased to have examples of them all. We treasure their wonderful variety of form and color. Choice examples are works of beauty that also evoke a smile!
Also, our special Autumn 2020 booklet may be found in the publications section of this site. We welcome your inquiries on any or more of these beauitful objects! You are also welcome to visit. We are open Monday-Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM and by appointment. For any inquiries, please contact us by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 212-397-2818.
***Please note: for your visit you will need a mask to enter the building and appropriate social distancing will be observed.
We are also available for cataloguing and researching on a limited basis. We can also assist with repairs needed to objects. Please contact us if we could be of assistance.