A Chinese lion and an imaginary "lion dog" with one horn make up a pair of sacred guardians of Buddhist temples and shrines. They are usually placed around a gate or on a balcony. Although the Japanese had not seen lions, they had learned of them early in the eighth century from Indian and Chinese works of art. They admired the lion's fierce spirit and its physical strength and beauty, and paired it with an imaginary doglike horned animal. According to tradition, the guardian lion opens its mouth as if saying "ah," and the guardian dog closes its mouth as if saying "um." Sometimes they are affectionately called the "ah" lion and "um" dog.
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