Japanese Antique Architectural Temple Carving

Antique Japanese Architectural Shi-Shi Lion Carving | Temple Guardian Panel | Late Meiji - Early Taisho Period


Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 15/1/4”h x 18-3/4”w x  3-1/2”d. Weight: 13-1/2 lbs.

Offered is this absolutely beautifully carved Japanese Temple Guardian architectural panel originally at the entrance of a dismantled family temple in Hiroshima.  Such a piece is rarely seen and exhibits stylized openwork carvings of a Shi-Shi, (in this case the Open Mouth Lion), considered a guardian with magical powers to repel evil, and surrounded by a large peony in a natural environment filled with foliage. Each element flows from one to the next layer and carved from a single slab of wood, with original painted surfaces accentuating its detail and character. It has different levels of extremely deep carving, which has been left untouched, and which has allowed it to develop an exceptional patina.

The beautiful, fine work and detailing is typical of architectural panel of this period, with natural coloration throughout the piece. The details of the Shi-Shi remain fully intact showing its expressive gold eye, tooth, red tongue, realistic claws on its feet, a long expressive tail, characteristic swirling fur and lion's mane with original features accentuated in a gold enamel. The back of the piece has a shallow overall cloud motif, cut and fitted to complement the front image. NOTE: Because sacred forests and trees have significant roles, preserving a solemn atmosphere as well as the natural environment, ancient Shinto temples incorporated architectural pieces that were carved from sacred trees and retained to protect the sanctified grounds of a shrine or temple, and were conserved as a heritage for citizens.

Antique Condition: Excellent and commensurate with age.  It is carved from one piece of wood, with all elements and details remain intact, with no cracking, chipping, deterioration, with the original hand-carving not disturbed, in order to preserve it’s original character and value.

The piece has been protected with a gold/red bamboo inspired frame, (1960s), so as not to cause harm to the piece, or change the original creation. The carving can be released by clips should the frame not be wanted. The piece is stamped JAPAN on the back, (After 1921 the United States government required that Japanese imports be marked "Japan", some years after the McKinley Tariff Act was passed). Such a find would round out a personal collection to display a beautiful representation of the Japanese architectural culture. 

NOTE: The Japanese guardian or protector lions are traditionally known in Japan as Shi-Shi, and tied to Buddhism and Shintoism, and referred to as Foo Dogs in China and in the West. Shi-Shi carvings and statuary are used as significant architectural elements and placed in a special location in both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to ward off evil spirits. According to the Kyoto National Museum, the open-mouth animal is just a lion. Only the close-mouth animal is a lion-dog. The museum also notes that early artwork of the ShiShi depicted one with a horn on its head, (as found at Toji Temple in Kyoto), but by the Kamakura Era, the horned beast of earlier times had been replaced by the hornless version.