The inscription may be read, Kangxi ershisan nian bing dadian yishi zao Xiwangzhao zuchuan liulijiang Yan Jialun, nan Yongqing /mi xiong Yang Yilong, nan Shichang di Ru Mingji, and may be translated, 'Made in the 23rd year of the Kangxi reign (1685) at the same time as the building of the Great Hall using traditional methods passed down through the generations by the ceramic craftsmen from Xiwangzhao (including) Yan Jialun and son Shichang, (and his) distant younger brother Ru Mingji'. Xiwangzhao is the name of a county village in Hebei province. The top of one of the stands is inscribed with the characters, dong lei yi (northeast one) and dong nan er (southeast two).
During the Ming period the main centers for tile production were in Shanxi, Hebei and Henan counties in the north and Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Fujian and Guangdong counties in the south. According to J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pp. 537 - 8, large tilework figures were "made in section moulds, hand finished, and glazed in the sancai or fahua palettes of the tile-making industries", and "would have been produced in specially built small kilns". The author goes on to note that "large-scale sculptures, created by artisans rather than by individual artists, were predominantly produced for religious purposes", with most of them placed in temples. The figures of Daoist or Buddhist deities would have been located within the temple, while the Buddhistic lions, in their capacity as defender of the Buddhist law and protector of sacred buildings, were most likely placed at the entrance of a temple or shrine or even sometimes at the entrance to a private residence.
For another pair of equally large buddhistic lions dated to the late 16th century and attributed to Shanxi province, but glazed in a sancai rather than the fahua palette of the present pair, see d'Argencé, ed., Chinese, Korean and Japanese Sculpture in the Avery Brundage Collection, Japan, 1974, pp. 320 - 1, no. 171. See, also, the pair glazed predominantly in aubergine and turquoise and dated to the 16th century sold Christie's, New York, 1 June 1990, lot 209.