Although the lion is not native to China, its image has long been important to the repertoire of Chinese iconography. Lions are often seen in stone statuary, symbolizing protection and law, and appeared on decorative arts as early as the Tang dynasty. Buddhistic lions playing with brocade balls became the most popular form of imagery incorporating the lion, and appear much later, perhaps becoming most popular during the Qing dynasty.
A jade group of two buddhistic lions, one in a similar pose grasping a brocade ball between its paws and its ribbon in its jaws, from the E.J.C. Vint collection, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 3 December 2008, lot 2609.