Pair of Guardian Animals: Karashishi and Komainu

唐獅子・狛犬像

1300s
Overall: 49.6 cm (19 1/2 in.)
Location: not on view
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Description

Placed at the entrance to shrines and temples in Japan, guardian figures ward off evil spirits. These guardians used to be painted red and white and are distinguishable by their facial expressions: the open-mouthed animal is a karashishi, or “Chinese lion,” while the close-mouthed beast, which once had a single horn protruding from its head, is called a komainu, or “Korean dog.” The mouths correspond to infinity, the syllables ah (open) and um (closed), or the alpha and omega. This pairing was widespread in ancient times in Chinese territories and likely found its way to Japan via kingdoms in Korea.
Pair of Guardian Animals: Karashishi and Komainu

Pair of Guardian Animals: Karashishi and Komainu

1300s

Japan, Kamakura period (1185–1333)

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