How To Tell If Foo Dogs Are Old

How To Tell If Foo Dogs Are Old

Foo Dogs, also known as guardian lions or imperial guardian lions, are a traditional symbol of protection and good luck in many East Asian cultures. They are often displayed in pairs and can be made from various materials such as stone, jade, bronze, or ceramic. If you happen to own a pair of Foo Dogs or are considering purchasing one, you may wonder how to determine their age. While it can be challenging to accurately estimate the age of these decorative sculptures, there are a few key indicators to look for. In this article, we will discuss some methods you can use to assess whether Foo Dogs are old or not.

1. Inspect the Material and Craftsmanship

One of the most reliable ways to determine the age of Foo Dogs is by examining the material they are made from and their craftsmanship. Traditional Foo Dogs are often crafted using stone, bronze, or jade, which may show signs of aging over time. Look for any weathering, cracks, or patina on the surface of the sculptures. These signs can indicate that the Foo Dogs are older and have endured the test of time.

Additionally, pay attention to the level of detail and intricacy in the craftsmanship. Older Foo Dogs were often intricately carved and featured more elaborate designs. Newer reproductions may lack the same level of fine detail or exhibit a more uniform appearance. By carefully observing these characteristics, you can get a sense of whether the Foo Dogs you’re examining are likely to be old or relatively new.

2. Research the Style and Iconography

Another method to help determine the age of Foo Dogs is by researching their style and iconography. Foo Dogs have evolved over the centuries, and different periods and regions may have distinct styles. Study historical examples of Foo Dogs from different eras and compare them with the ones you have. Look for specific design elements, poses, or motifs that are associated with certain periods.

For example, Foo Dogs from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) often have a more vigorous and fierce appearance, while those from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) may exhibit a greater level of realism and softer features. Understanding the typical characteristics of each period can give you valuable insights into the potential age of the Foo Dogs you are examining.

3. Consult Experts or Appraisers

If you are uncertain about determining the age of your Foo Dogs on your own, consider seeking the assistance of experts or professional art appraisers. These individuals have extensive knowledge and experience in evaluating the authenticity and age of various artworks, including sculptures.

Contact local antique dealers, art galleries, or museums to inquire about experts who specialize in Asian art and antiquities. They can help examine your Foo Dogs in person and provide a more accurate assessment of their age and provenance. While this method may involve additional cost, it can offer a higher level of certainty in determining the age of your Foo Dogs.

4. Look for Historical Documentation or Provenance

If you acquired your Foo Dogs from an antique shop, auction, or previous owner, see if there is any historical documentation or provenance available. Look for any certificates of authenticity, previous sale records, or written accounts of the history of the sculptures. Genuine antique Foo Dogs often come with some form of documentation that can provide clues about their age and origin.

Contacting the seller or previous owner to ask for more information is also worth considering. Be sure to ask questions about how they acquired the Foo Dogs and if they have any knowledge of their age or history. However, keep in mind that not all Foo Dogs have a documented history, especially if they were passed down through generations or obtained from less formal sources.


Determining the age of Foo Dogs can be a bit challenging, but by carefully examining the material, craftsmanship, style, and iconography, and utilizing the expertise of professionals, you can gain a better understanding of their age. Remember that antique Foo Dogs, especially those with well-documented provenance, tend to have higher value and historical significance. Whether your Foo Dogs turn out to be old or new, they can still bring a touch of charm and protection to your home or garden.

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