What Does The Lion Symbolize In Chinese Culture?

In Chinese culture, the lion is a spiritual animal. Although lions did not exist in China based on human history, Chinese people turned them into spiritual animals because they learned about them from Indian Buddhism. However, in contemporary china, there are lions because Han Dynasty brought them. Read on to find out about lions in Chinese culture.

Were there lions in ancient china

Although it is believed that China has never had lions, ancient China had a species that can be compared to the present-day lion. When we say ancient China, we mean the period before human beings came into existence.

A theory about Panthera Youngi suggests that it existed in the Northern part of ancient China. Panthera Youngi was discovered in 1934 at Choukoutien. Panthera Youngi is said to have lived 350000 years ago. This was a period of Saber-tooth tigers. All the species died before any human being was born.

Did lions ever live in china?

chinese lion painting

In China, during the era of the first human beings, they had no encounter with lions. As mentioned above, the first lion, Panthera Youngi, existed before humans. Therefore it is logical to say that Lions have never lived in China as long as human existence is concerned.

People in China first learned about lions while interacting with Indians and Persians. They heard about Lions through stories and paintings. The fact that the Chinese only heard about Lions and never saw them before the Han Dynasty led them to picture lions in a pretty weird way. They picture Lions to be looking like dogs.

During the period between the first century and third century AD, the lion came to china as one of the holy beasts of Indian Buddhism. Chinese people were curious, which led to the importation of lions from the Middle East. In essence, lions did not ever live in China in human history.

How many lions are in china

The rough estimate of lions in East Asia as of 2017 was 650. In three years, they increased by approximately twenty-four. Although there is no exact number of Lions in China, we can suggest that it is between 1 and 674 Lions.

What does a Chinese lion symbolize?

The Chinese guardian lions are meaning.

chinese lion dog

The Chinese guardian Lion symbolizes strength, power, and protection. Chinese guardian lions are often called Foo dogs or foo Lions, but they have deep symbolism. The Foo Lion originates from a spiritual perspective—Chinese Buddhism. The lions are believed to have the power to repel negative energy and protect the people who bear the mark and have the sculptures around. They are also believed to be symbols of serenity and calmness.

The faces of guardian lions look scary and more devilish to scare off evil spirits and protect believers from evil spirits. The lions have big, wide-open eyes with a dot in the middle. Their mouths represent lions that are roaring because they are wide open. The big eyes and roaring mouth symbolize their power over evil spirits.

Also, the male guardian lion is always on the right-hand side. There is a ball right below its left paw that symbolizes the earth. It guards the temple and the home where it is. The female guardian lion is always on the left-hand side. There is a cub beneath its paw. The female protects the interior of the home and the temple. Also, the cub being under its paw shows that it protects believers on the inside.

 Chinese lion dance meaning

Chinese Lion Dance

The Chinese lion dance is mostly performed during the beginning of the Lunar year. The dance is believed to welcome prosperity, good luck, and serenity. Also, it is performed during maim celebrations like the opening of new businesses, weddings, and birthdays among others, to invite good serendipity and peace.

Also, the Chinese lion dance was originally performed by male artists alone to signify strength. Performers of dance are defined as strong and skillful artists. Moreover, to master the dance, they require the discipline of the body and the mind. Therefore, the dance symbolizes discipline, which offers the body a full workout and improves their health.

Also, the dance during the New Year symbolizes how the Chinese lion sends away evil and welcomes a new year. The history of the lion dance is that there was a fierce creature called ‘nian,’ which sounds like ‘year’ in Chinese. It came and attacked men and women, beasts, and domestic animals and was powerful. Chinese people had to turn to the lion for help.

The lion successfully defeated the nian, and it ran away but swore to come for revenge. One year later, the nian came, and the Chinese people had to mimic the lion. They made an image of a lion using bamboo, and two men got in inside it. When the nian came, the men started running towards it, looking like a lion, and it ran away in fear. In this story, the dance is done in such a manner to symbolize that they are chasing away the evil spirit and welcoming the New Year with prosperity.

Lions in Chinese mythology

In Chinese mythology, lions are spiritual creatures. The spirituality comes from the Buddhist religion, and the aspect was borrowed from Persia. During the Han Dynasty, the lion came as a Buddhist Ghost before they could get the actual lion.

The lions are protectors of Dharma. They became part of the spiritual culture of China and protected the Chinese imperial Dharma. Also, lions were believed to be protectors of the empire and the emperor in China.

Feng shui lion symbol

chinese guardian lions shang chi

These are lion symbols put at the entrance of buildings and homes. According to Chinese traditions, they are made from granite, marble, and decorative stones. Some advances have been made, and today people also make the Feng Shui lion symbol from iron, bronze, and ceramic. They symbolize spiritual protection and the aristocracy of the government.

Why lion is not in the Chinese zodiac

Historically, the lion had a place in the 13 zodiac signs of China. However, the Jade Emperor analyzed the lion as savage and cruel. They replaced the lion with the tiger. The lion was among the animals that caused intent in the world and attacked humans. The tiger was sent to bring order. That is how the lion was replaced.


Although Lions have a significant place in Chinese culture, they never lived in China in human history. The first lions in China existed before the human race. The lion got a special place in Chinese culture due to the Buddhism Beliefs from India. They are a symbol of protection and peace.

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