The Pekingese

I’m collecting Pekingese stories, and this is another one. The reason is because I have a petite XiaoLun (little dragon) in my novel. Although my Pekingese plays a small part, he has a significant role in the issue in my novel. So I’m uploading the following story for others to enjoy.


Though the Pekingese was developed as a companion dog, it was originally bred in China specifically as an ornamental accessory for the Emperors and courtiers in the Forbidden City as well as a personal guard dog. The smaller ones, that is, the smallest ferocious ones, called “Sleeves,” were carried in the large sleeves of garments and served as the ancient Chinese version of mace to defend and scare off anyone threatening the courtiers.

The ancient Chinese standard refers to Pekingese having specific colours to match certain wardrobes.  This suggests that Pekingese were literally an extravagant fashion accessory in a society and culture known for exotic excesses and lavishness.

The Pekingese remains excessively exotic and lavish today. But historical records showed that the Pekingese was an undisputed favourite of the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, right, who died in 1911.   The final version of the ancient Chinese standard for the Pekingese is attributed to her. It is from this document that the English, American, Canadian and FCI breed standards evolved:

Let the Lion Dog be small; let it wear the swelling cape of dignity around its neck; let it display the billowing standard of pomp above its back.

Let its face be black; let its fore-front be shaggy; let its forehead be straight and low, like the brow of an Imperial righteous harmony boxer.

Let its eyes be large and luminous; let its ears be set like the sails of a war-junk; let its nose be like the monkey god of the Hindus.

Let its forelegs be bent, so that it shall not desire to wander far, or leave the Imperial precincts. Let its body be shaped like that of a hunting lion spying for its prey.

Let its feet be tufted with plentiful hair that its footfall may be soundless; and for its standard of pomp let it rival the whisk of the Tibetan’s yak, which flourished to protect the Imperial litter from the attacks of flying insects.

Let it be lively that it may afford entertainment by its gambols; let it be timid that it may not involve itself in danger; let it be domestic in its habits that it may live in amity with other beasts, fishes or birds that find protection in the Imperial Palace.

Let it venerate its ancestors and deposit offerings in the Canine Cemetery of The Forbidden City on each new moon. And for its colour – let it be that of a lion, a golden sable, to be carried in the sleeve of a yellow robe – or the colour of a red bear, or a black and white bear – or stripped like a dragon – so that there may be dogs appropriate to every costume in the Imperial wardrobe.

Let it comport itself with dignity; let it learn to bite the foreign devils instantly.

Let it be dainty with its food that it shall be known for an Imperial dog by its fastidiousness.

Shark fins and curlews’ liver and the breasts of quail – on these it may be fed; and for drink, give it the tea that is brewed from the spring buds of the shrub that grows in the province of the Habkow — or the milk of antelopes that pasture in the Imperial parks.

Thus it shall preserve its integrity and self-respect; and for the day of sickness, let it be anointed with the clarified fat of the leg of the sacred leopard – and give it to drink a throttle’s eggshell full of the juice of the custard apple in which there has been dissolved three pinches of shredded rhinoceros horn … and apply to it piebald leeches.  So shall it remain.  But if it dies, remember you too are mortal.

~ by Joel Huan on August 1, 2009.

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