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Click on thumbnails to view additional images of this piece:
  • DSCF8087
  • Chinatown Gateway.v2
  • DSCF8090
  • DSCF8086

Foo Dogs: Chinatown




Chinatown Gateway, at Beach St.  


Chinatown Gateway, at Beach St.
United States






1977 / 2007




City of Boston




Ceremonial gates, or pai lous, have been part of Chinese culture since the Song Dynasty of the 10th to 13th centuries. Structures like this one serve both as entryways to important sites and as commemorations for significant people and events. Additionally, many overseas Chinatowns feature a pai lou in order to symbolize the presence of a Chinese community.

In 1976, Taiwan gifted the materials for this gate to the City of Boston, sister city of Taipei, in honor of America’s bicentennial. The Chinatown gate was not actually assembled until 1982, when it was dedicated during the August Moon Festival, a harvest celebration. Over the years, this gate has required extensive renovations, due in part to weather-induced damage and nearby construction on the Big Dig.

Sitting at the base of the wood-and-tile arch are two marble foo dog sculptures. In China and Taiwan, pairs of foo dogs, one male and one female, can often be found flanking the entranceway of palaces, Buddhist temples, government buildings, and even some private residences. The male foo dog rests one paw on a ball, while the female stands over a tiny cub. Believed to ward off evil, the dogs protect the inhabitants of the structure they guard. This gate’s original foo dog statues were badly damaged and replaced in 2007 with copies. Another identical pair is installed in the Chinese burial grounds at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Mattapan, where over a thousand Chinese immigrants have been laid to rest since 1930.

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