The Pekingese – History

Pekingese1904The fascinating Pekingese originated in China in antiquity, in the city of Peking and speculated to be most likely from wolves. Recent DNA analysis confirms that the Pekingese breed is one of the oldest breeds of dog, one of the least genetically diverged from the wolf. For centuries, they could be owned only by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace. Others owning any were at the pain of death.

During the Second Opium War, in 1860, Beijing  was invaded by Allied troops. When the ‘foreign devils’ entered the Forbidden City, Emperor Xianfeng had already fled with all of his court. However, an elderly aunt of the emperor remained, but she committed suicide. Besides her were five Pekingese mourning her passing. They were removed by the Allies before the Old Summer Palace was burnt.

Lord John Hay took a pair, later called ‘Schloff’, and ‘Hytien’ and gave them to his sister, the Duchess of Wellington, wife of Henry Wellesley, 3rd Duke of Wellington. Sir George Fitzroy took another pair, and gave them to his cousins, the Duke and Duchess of Richmond and Gordon. Lieutenant Dunne presented the fifth Pekingese to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who named it Looty.

Xianfeng’s chief concubine, known better as the Empress Dowager Cixi, exercised almost total control over the court and over a newly installed five-years-old emperor,  presented more Pekingese to several Americans, including John Pierpont Morgan and Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, who named it Manchu.

The first Pekingese in Ireland was introduced by Dr. Heuston. He established smallpox vaccination clinics in China. The effect was dramatic. In gratitude, the Chinese minister, Li Hung Chang presented him with a pair of Pekingese. They were named Chang and Lady Li. Dr. Heuston founded the Greystones kennel.

China was shattered, and living up to its name, the porcelain pieces sprang across the oceans. Like the Chinese Diaspora, the Pekingese breed now populated all around the globe with a fabulous history behind it.

::: Just fiction, but an important character, a Pekingese, named XiaoLun, has being incorporated into Over Mount Fuji – excerpt from Chapter 2 :::

When he strode toward the door, XiaoLun groaned beside him. Wulfstein bended to pat his golden brown Pekinese, then rubbed his stomach and long ears.

“Be good,” he said after giving his pet two pieces of bone and a bowl of grains. “I’ll be back soon.”

::: And from the Epilogue :::

Hustling through the horde of reporters, Eileen pushed past Carol. “Byron, great to see you.”

“And what’s this?” Carol asked, pointing to a vigorous pup with a thick coat, barking and jumping around with agitation and excitement.

“His name is XiaoLun. He’s a Pekinese.” Nobuko held him up, his tail wagging. After giving his fluffy body a passionate hug, she looked into his luminous eyes and planted a kiss on his black muzzle.

“Where did you get him?” Eileen asked.

“He’s my Peke. We saved him from the sea.”

“It must have worn a life jacket,” Carol said.

“No,” Nobuko said. “He never had a life jacket or any life-saving mechanism.”

As Nobuko and Byron related how, in the middle of the night, they heard a dog howling in the turbulent sea, XiaoLun kept barking and wheezing, wagging his tail vigorously, as if he also had a story of his own ordeal to tell.

“Byron, you saved him!” Carol exclaimed.

“I did,” Byron said. Then he continued his story. On hearing the dog crying at sea, Byron unzipped the aperture of the lift-raft and, in his excitement, jumped into the sea, swam toward the dog and carried him back into the raft. Only then did Nobuko know he was her pet.

©) Joel Huan, author of Over Mount Fuji (available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble)

~ by Joel Huan on September 3, 2009.

3 Responses to “The Pekingese – History”

  1. […] Recent DNA analysis confirms that the Pekingese breed is one of the oldest breeds of dog, one of the least genetically diverged from the wolf. For centuries, they could be owned only by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace. … Continue Reading […]

  2. When I compare the photos, I think the pekingese had improved over the 100 years of breeding; thumbs up for the breeders!

  3. Indeed Joel…our lovely pekes.

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