Fu / Foo Dogs


Fu / Foo Dogs (Chinese translation 獅 for “Lion”) are familiar statues to many people. They may also be known as 'Guardian Dogs' or 'Temple Dogs.’

In the streets of China Town, London, UK, in Chinese restaurants, at garden centres and in parks, even outside Liberty & Co Ltd in Central London are stone sculptures standing several feet tall of ferocious looking canines. Victorian households would frequently have fine ceramic and glass Foo Dog ornaments adorning the mantelpieces. But, what are they? Why are they revered? Where did they come from and importantly how are they able to benefit our lives?

In popular Chinese culture these are creatures of protection; warding off evil spirits. Since the Ming Dynasty of the 14th Century they have been found in places of high footfall; outside governmental buildings, Buddhist temples such as the ‘Dajue Temple (“Great Awakening”, outside Tombs and also outside wealthy homes as symbols of protection, wealth, and status. The most famous of the Fu Dogs are 6 pairs placed around Beijing's Forbidden City - they are enormous, highly detailed and cast in shining bronze. In Asia it is very common to see 80” or larger sculptures or to see them together in vast quantities - as in Beijing’s Marco Polo Bridge where dozens are lined up facing one another, watching travellers crossing.

The term ‘Fu Dog’ has some confusion of origin and there is some weight to the concept of verbal discrepancy as ‘Buddha' in Chinese bares some acoustic resemblance to ‘Fu’ and so the connotations of the Buddha, protection, has been wrapped into these dogs. Similarly ‘Fu’ also has similarly to “Happiness.”


Many depictions of these creatures seem daunting - large imposing statues, often with severely aggressive to almost maniacal expressions. Their postures are dominating, powerful, assertive.

Their flowing locks almost as if fiery flames, claws extended, chests puffed out, sitting on haunches, backs straight, prepared for any attempt to pass.

Where did they come from

Artisans of the day were limited on influence when it came to design and creative flare has been allowed to flow like wildfire in these animals. The lion is not native to China but as travelling the world became increasingly accessible, those who had seen these creatures reported back their descriptions and the Fu Dogs were given visual life!

Gender Dilema

There are Male and Female Fu Dogs - to tell them apart you do so by analysing what is underneath each of the raised paws. Under the female’s paw is a small cub, under the paw of the male is a globe - one symbolising protection and control (external elements), the other influence and protection (internal elements of classical Feng Shui).

When and how to enlist their help

The male Fu Dog should sit to the right hand side of the entranceway into the building, the female opposite him.

Depending on the materials from which your Fu Dogs are made, they will have a preferred orientation; if metal then have them south facing. If they are red, face them to the East.

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Stone Sculpture of a Fu Dog shielding cub in Central London, placed correctly with female left. Image©Fotilli.com ©Angels-Therapy.com