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Two Komainu #4 (Guardian Lions) from Shinto Shrine
A pair of stone lion-dogs often flank the sandō near the entrance to the shrine or the haiden. These komainu, as the statues are known, are guardian figures believed to protect the space around the kami from evil. The ultimate origins of these lionlike figures probably extend back to ancient India or even Egypt, but the more immediate source would appear to be Chinese. Guardian lions and other divine beasts were probably imported from Tang China, along with Buddhism, via the Korean Peninsula, accounting for their alternate name, kōrai-inu, or Korean dogs. Most komainu closely resemble the so-called Chinese lion-dog. Typically, one of the creatures is depicted with its mouth open and the other with its mouth closed.