Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lion Symbols in Buddist and Chinese Cultures

Asiatic Lion

The lion is an unmistakable symbol in almost every culture. Despite similarities in other cultures, I wish to discuss the the similarities of lions in art and as symbols in Chinese and Buddhist cultures. Buddhism uses the lion as a representation of Buddha. In the Buddhist religion and culture, the lion embodies majesty, strength, and virtue. There are also mythical lions that are usually depicted on Buddha's "thrones" and they are known as snow lions. These snow lions appear very similar to the Rui Shi of China.

Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka
Drawing of a Mythical Snow Lion

Snow Lion Statue protecting the Potala Palace

Rui Shi

The Rui Shi are also known as Fu Lions and it is believed that the original model for the design of the Chinese lion was the Chow-Chow. Ironically, the Lion is not native to China yet it remains a prominent symbol of the culture. Now the reason for the similarity may be due to the spread of Buddhism to China, but for to be accepted by the Chinese Buddhism had to adapt to Chinese traditions and daily life.

Imperial Lioness Guard with cub

Imperial Lion Guard

Note the Chow-Chow's similar appearance to the Rui Shi

"Chinese Guardian Lions." Wikipeida. Web. 9 Sept. 2009. .
"GENERAL BUDDHIST SYMBOLS." A View on Buddhism. Web. 9 Sept. 2009. .

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