Chinese Foo Lion (Foo Dog)

   Chinese Foo Lion or Foo Dog
  Chinese Foo Lion Toggle (detail)

A long time ago, someone created this object, a small representation of a Foo Dog, also known as a Foo Lion in Chinese mythology. Traditionally, Foo Lions were carved as monumental sculptures, designed to stand in front of buildings for protection. However, sometimes the opposite was true. They were carved as small charms - called toggles - usually in jade or wood, and made to be worn as ornaments with the same purpose in mind.

Chinese Foo Lion or Foo Dog   
19th Century Coral Chinese Foo Lion (Foo Dog) Toggle

Was this toggle created purely for the singular purpose of protection, like many of its large and small scale relatives? Maybe not; Chinese art is almost never devoid of significance, and Chinese symbols often times have hidden meanings. The Foo Lion also represented valor, conscience, energy, virtue, and mastery. Could it be this week’s featured item was created as a reminder of the tools needed to protect what we hold most precious?  If so, it’s a fitting ornament for July 4th... or any other day of the year.

This piece is a large scale toggle carved from coral. We don’t know the name of the artist who created this piece or why they used such a precious material; but we do know the depiction is very unusual. Most Foo Lions are shown with both legs forward, sometimes with one raised on top of a ball representing the treasure of the place they were guarding. Instead, this one has the legs curling inward, the space between the paws providing the loop for a suspension cord.

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