The Song Dynasty ruled China during one of its most brilliant and sophisticated cultural epochs, marking a high point for innovation in economy, science, engineering, and warfare. The Dynasty saw the introduction of the first banknotes and the first recorded chemical formula for gunpowder, as well as large-scale experimental architecture and a new intellectual interest in the arts. During this period, Buddhism waned in popularity as new philosophical schools of thought were introduced. The development of Neo-Confucianism and the re-emergence of Daoism reverberated through society, guiding it to ideals of balance and order. Buddhism, however, retained a strong influence over the arts, and many representation of Buddhist iconography can be found in the Song Dynasty extensive artistic production.
Although lions never dwelt in China, they are commonly represented in Chinese art and often seen in the form of large statues guarding the entrances to temples. Most knowledge of the animal came from indirect sources, resulting in highly stylized forms.