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Two Lion-Dogs (Koma-Inu)
Japan, possibly Wakayama Prefecture; Kamakura period (1185-1333), 13th century
Cypress wood with traces of pigment and gilding
Each, H. 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm); L. 11 1/2 in. (29.2 cm); W. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art
Lion-dogs such as these are known in Japan as "Korean dogs" (koma-inu). They were generally placed in pairs at the entrance to a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine and functioned as protective images. Lion-dogs are often said to represent a fusion of the imperial lion of India with the sky-dog of early Chinese mythology. They were introduced in Japan in the 8th century and their use still continues. These two lion-dogs were formerly described as being a pair, but it is more likely that each was paired with another because generally in guardian lion-dog pairs, one dog has an open mouth while the other's is closed.
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