This netsuke is in the shape of a shishi, the Japanese version of the mythical Chinese lion. In China pairs of guardian lions often flag gateways to buildings. They symbolise protectiveness and are also associated with scholarship, which would have appealed to Freud. Images of shishi also featured on decorative arts and were adopted by the Japanese, often in the form of netsuke. A netsuke is a toggle at the end of a cord by which Japanese men would carry personal items such as tobacco pouches and pipes.