Past Exhibitions

Feature Exhibition: Guardian Lions and Lion-Dogs
December 15, 2015 - March 13, 2016

Pairs of guardian lions are known collectively in Japanese as komainu (lion-dogs). In technical terms, however, these pairs in fact comprise an open-mouthed lion and a closed-mouthed, single-horned komainu. In ancient Egypt and other areas of the Middle East, sculptures of lions exhibited some degree of realism; however, as such images moved east through China, away from the natural habitats of lions, their iconography became increasingly stylized turning into beasts called Chinese lions (karajishi) before entering Japan. Beginning in the Heian period (794–1185), pairs of guardian lions and lion-dogs began to be placed at the entrance to Japanese shrines and temples or inside their halls, taking on the role of protecting the Shinto or Buddhist deities within. This exhibition features approximately ten pairs of sculptures, giving viewers an opportunity to compare and contrast these charming guardian animals.

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