Denver Art Gallery, Okinawa Japan Lion-Dog

Art Gallery in Denver Colorado, Photographer in Denver
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Art Gallery in Denver - An Okinawan Guardian Lion-dog

Denver Art Gallery: A shisa lion-dog on a traditional Okinawan red-tiled rooftop at RyuKyu Mura in Onna Village, Okinawa Japan. Photography by Denver Colorado photographer John Burgreen.

 Komainu strongly resemble Chinese guardian lions and in fact originate from Tang dynasty China.[5] The Chinese guardian lions are believed to have been influenced by lion pelts and lion depictions introduced through trade from either the Middle East or India, countries where the lion existed and was a symbol of strength.[6] During its transportation along the Silkroad, however, the symbol changed[citation needed], acquiring a distinctive look. The first lion statue in India appears around the 3rd century BC on top of a column erected by King Ashoka.[6] The tradition later arrived in China where it developed into the guardian lion that was later exported to Korea, Japan, and Okinawa.

During the Nara period (710–794), as in the rest of Asia, the pair always consisted of two lions.[7] Used only indoors until the 14th century, they were made mainly of wood. During the Heian period (794–1185), for example, wooden or metal pairs were employed as weights and door-stops, while at the Imperial Palace they were used to support screens or folding screens.

During the early Heian period (ninth century), the tradition changed and the two statues started to be different and be called differently. One had its mouth open and was called shishi (獅子, lion) because, as before, it resembled that animal. The other had its mouth closed, looked rather like a dog, was called komainu, or "Goguryeo dog", and sometimes had a single horn on its head.[8] Gradually the animals returned to be identical, but for their mouths, and ended up being called both komainu.[8]
Denver Art Gallery, Shuri Castle
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