The Dragon is synonymous with China, it permeates every part of Chinese culture from popular folklore, art, religion to the emperor of China himself. Dragons have been depicted since earliest times. The Dragon, although strong, is in China a benevolent, even positive beast, potent with auspicious powers said to control the Earth and the Heavens. It is associated with life giving rain that nourish crops. This connection with rain and indeed all forms of water could be due to some folklores that says the Dragon is based on the now extinct salt-water crocodile that used to inhabit the rivers of China. The earliest depictions of Dragons in China are so far recorded as being from the Yangshao culture in Henan in the fifth millennium BC from. The five-claw Dragon is reserved as a symbol of the Emperor.
Fu Dog, Buddhist Lion, Fo Dog :
When Buddhist priests, or possibly traders, brought stories to China about stone dogs guarding the entry to Indian Buddhist temples, Chinese sculptors modelled statues after native dogs for use outside their temples. The mythic version of the animal, was known as the Dog of Fo, the word Fo being Chinese for Buddha. The Buddhist version of the dog was originally introduced to Han China as the protector of dharma and these dogs have been found in religious art as early as c.200 BC. Gradually they were incorporated as guardians of the Chinese Imperial dharm. However, Chinese sensitivity metamorphosed the dog into a lion, even though lions were not indigenous to China, since this seems more appropriate to the dignity of an emperor when he used the beasts to guard his gates. The mythic dog is sometimes associated with feng shui, and are often called Fu Dogs. Fu means `happiness` in Chinese; however, the term `Fu Dog` and its variant Foo Dog, are not used in Chinese. Instead, they are known as Rui Shi (`auspicious lions`) or simply Shi (lions). There are various styles of imperial guardian lions reflecting influences from different time periods, imperial dynasties, and regions of China. These styles vary in their artistic detail and adornment as well as in the depiction of the lions from fierce to serene.