Chinese guardian lions , known as Shishi (Chinese : 石獅 ; pinyin : shíshī ; literally "stone lion") or Imperial guardian lion , and often incorrectly called "Foo Dogs" in the West, are a common representation of the lion in pre-modern China. They have traditionally stood in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, Imperial tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC -AD 220 ), and were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits. Pairs of guardian lions are still common decorative and symbolic elements at the entrances to restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and other structures, with one sitting on each side of the entrance, in China and in other places around the world where the Chinese people have immigrated and settled, especially in local Chinatowns .
The lions are always created in pairs, with the male resting his paw upon the world and the female restraining a playful cub that is on its back. They occur in many types of Chinese pottery and in Western imitations.
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