Buddhistic lions of this type may have had their genesis in the stone lions of the Tang dynasty, such as the two from the anteroom of the Wanfu Cave, Longmen, and now in the collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, and the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, illustrated in Lost Statues of the Longmen Caves, Shanghai, 1993, nos. 102 and 103. The pose of these lions is quite similar to the present Kangxi examples, and one of the lions wears a belled collar and grasps a chain in its mouth.
The motif of Buddhistic lions playing with brocade balls, known from at least the Jin dynasty, became very popular in the second half of the Ming dynasty and was often seen in the decorative arts of the 16th century. The motif continued to be very popular in the Kangxi period, especially in the production of famille verte figures, such as the present lot. These figures were made in pairs, the male depicted with a brocade ball, the female with a playful cub.
The present figures are unusual in having a lotus blossom medallion on the forehead, rather than the more usual wang (king) character. For an example of the latter see the male Buddhistic illustrated by W. Bondy in Kang-Hsi, Munich, 1925, pl. 181.