The Ramp of the Chinese Dog

For George Gough Booth, the vista from Cranbrook House to the Ramp of the Chinese Dog was a crucial one – he could see the Cranbrook Art Museum from his west wing office at Cranbrook House and the Chinese Dog guarding the entrance.

Though Cranbrook’s sculpture is commonly referred to as the “Chinese Dog”, the sculpture is actually a stone lion. In October 1940, George Booth purchased the lion from S. & G. Gump Co. in San Francisco and it is considered to be from the Wei Dynasty (386-557). A buyer for Gumps had acquired it in Beijing, China in 1938 where he was told that the lion came from the “Ta Fo Tze Temple in Chien Ting Fu Prefecture in Hopei.” Hebei (Hopei) Province is known for its stone and iron lions, and lion sculptures similar to the one at Cranbrook are still located at the entrance to the Ta Fo Tze Temple, now known as the Longxing Temple.

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“Sacred Lion-Dog,” S. & G. Gump Co.’s showroom, San Francisco, ca 1940. Courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum.

During the Ming Dynasty, sacred guardian lions were placed in front of palaces, government buildings and temples as a symbol of bravery, power and good luck. In Western countries, the lions are often referred to as “Fu Dogs” as the word “fu” means Buddha or prosperity. George Booth placed another pair of Chinese stone lions at Cranbrook House, as well as several other stone lion sculptures around the grounds. In addition, he purchased two terracotta lions for the quadrangle at Cranbrook School, and numerous other objects with representations of lions in them including stained glass medallions, stone panels, and a gilt bronze lion sculpture by Carl Milles. As I write this, I am thinking that it would be an interesting project to research just what Booth’s interest or fascination (obsession?) with lions truly was.

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One of two terracotta lions at Cranbrook School. Filmmaker Brad Mitzelfeld behind the camera, 1970. Harvey Croze, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

2 thoughts on “The Ramp of the Chinese Dog

  1. Wow!!! Such history is surely appreciated and makes our visits to the Cranbrook Community so enjoyable! Thanks to you Leslie and your interns!

    Like

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