16th/17th century, elm or cypress, Shanxi. Exquisitely deep carved, layers of natural color pigments, gilding; from Ming temple. 10½” h. 14½” w. 7½” d.
This pair of dragons is from a temple being torn down in China. In temples, dragon figures signify as protectors of the Dharma (teachings of the Buddha). This pair is called Fu-dogs (protector of the god Fu), or Lion-dogs because of the mane. Like most temple furniture and decorative items of the early periods, the pair was originally painted with at least five mineral color pigments and gilded. The gilding and colors have faded but still quite evident. The pair looks fierce, and the deep carving is superb.
Antique temple decorative carved items, religious figures and offering vessels have become quite rare because they were among the first relics to be collected when China opened to the outside world in the 1990s, but now such old relics are forbidden to leave the country, so this pair of authentic relics is now rare. The pair was found in Beijing in the mid 1990s, about time when China opened to the West for trade.