A statue of a Shishi looking over Mount Emei, China
石獅, or Stone Lions are usually historically posted as guardians at doors, gates, and other places of entry in important locations (Palaces, temples, homes of the wealthy…)
The lions are always presented in pairs, a manifestation of yin and yang, the female representing yin and the male yang. The male lion has one paw (may be right or left) on an embroidered ball called a “xiù qiú” (绣球), which is sometimes carved with a geometric pattern known in the West as the “Flower of life" The female is essentially identical, but has a cub under the other paw to the male, representing the cycle of life. Symbolically, the female lion protects those dwelling inside, while the male guards the structure. Sometimes the female has her mouth closed, and the male open. This symbolizes the enunciation of the sacred word "om". However, Japanese adaptions state that the male is inhaling, representing life, while the female exhales, representing death. Other styles have both lions with a single large pearl in each of their partially opened mouths. The pearl is carved so that it can roll about in the lion’s mouth but sized just large enough so that it can never be removed.
Andhra Pradesh, possibly Nagarjunakonda
Yakshi Standing on a Mythical Beast, c. 2nd century B.C.-A.D. 2nd century
Yakshi (female) and Yaksha (male) were originally local deities associated with potent or sacred sites, but later evolved to become supernatural protectors of nature associated with fertility, wealth, and health. They were considered to be auspicious beings. Later, Yakshi and Yaksha pairs were seen as guardians of the home.
Bronze Figure of the Walking Buddha
Sukhothai period, 14th century AD
Bronze sculpture from the Thai ‘Golden Age’
This Buddha is depicted walking with his right hand in the gesture of reassurance (abhayamudra). Most Buddha images throughout Asia are in one of three postures: standing, sitting or lying down. The creation of a walking Buddha image is a distinctive feature of Thai art in the thirteenth century. Walking images of the Buddha continue to be made in Thailand to this day.
After renouncing his early life as a prince, the Buddha spent the remainder of his life as a mendicant, teaching throughout northern India. Earlier Buddhist art had stressed the god-like and king-like aspects of the Buddha, and neither gods nor kings were imagined as a walking monk. Thai images presented a new image of the Buddha walking among the people emphasizing his earthly aspects. Sukhothai walking images are also connected with the conception of Thai kings as being closer to the people than their Indian or Khmer counterparts.
The Sukhothai kingdom was the first Theravada Buddhist kingdom of Thailand. The ethnic Thai people entered modern Thailand from the north, modern south-west China. The Sukhothai style of sculpture is very distinctive, with smooth long limbs, an oval face and smooth modelling of clothing. The influence of Sri Lanka is clear in the flame-like ushnisha which is seen on the head of images of the Buddha.
W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)
R.E. Fisher, Buddhist art and architecture (London, Thames & Hudson, 1993)
R.L. Brown, Artibus Asiae-1 (, 1990)
Via The British Museum
Tang Dynasty (CE 618 - 907)
Female Sleeve Dancer
Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE - CE 8)