Flanking the main entrance of the James A. Thomas Memorial Room in the south foyer of the second floor, are two marble, semi-mythical creatures called shizi. Although the Chinese consider them to be lions [rarely seen in China], their short, thick bodies more closely resemble Pekinese dogs, which became popular at the Imperial Court of the Qing Dynasty [1644-1912]. They are Buddhist symbols of wisdom, valor, and energy. This pair (only the male is pictured) might have served as guardians against evil spirits and could have been placed at the entrance of a Buddhist shrine or at either side of a Buddhist statue.
In the west the shizi have been called "Dogs of Fo" [Dogs of Buddha]. They always appear in pairs. The female can be recognized by the young cub under her left paw. The male is identified by the ball or "sun-sphere" under his right paw. The pair has been dated back to the eighteenth century, in the mid-Qing Dynasty.
“Marble Lions,” Duke Library Exhibits, accessed May 27, 2016, http://exhibits.library.duke.edu/items/show/21563.
Last published April 21, 2010 7:03:32 PM EDT