Supports in the form of crouching and recumbent animals were popular during the Tang and Song dynasties. Among the more commonly depicted animals was the lion, which in the Tang dynasty became important guardian figures and symbols of imperial prestige and power. The Tang emperors greatly expanded the borders of their realm, and through trade and tributary alliances, their sphere of influence was greater than any other previous dynasty. Lions were said to have been among the gifts of tribute to the Tang emperors, and their form was closely studied in both painting and sculpture. The powerful, muscular body and the ferocious expression of the present figure are hallmarks of Tang sculptural vitality and naturalism. It is, however, very rare to find a lion support of such large size and carved from stone such as the present example. A similarly rendered lion can be seen on a smaller scale serving as a the base for a Tang dynasty sancai-glazed pottery armrest or stand sold at Christie's New York, 21 March 2002, lot 118. Unlike the present figure, the sancai-glazed lion is shown with its head lowered and snarling.