Netsuke, shishi on a seal base
Edo period, 18th century AD
The shishi or 'lion dog' was a mythical leonine creature originating in China where it was a common subject of decorative arts. In Japan, pairs of stone-carved shishi often guard the entrance to Shintō shrines. Large numbers of ivory netsuke were made in Japan in the first half of the Edo period (1600-1868) in imitation of imported Chinese seals.
Netsuke of this type appear in the Sōken Kishō, the earliest authoritative guide to the subject (and also to inrō, purses and sword furniture), published in woodblock-printed book form in Osaka, 1781.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)