Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Early Beginnings of The Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu – Early Beginnings Of Our Beloved Shih Tzu And “White” Shih Tzu

In the Pavillion of Green Ripples in the Imperial Garden, Forbidden City, Beijing (formerly Peking), China, ShihTzu romped with each other, the enunchs, and the Empress and her attendants. Shih Tzu was a highly valued companion of the Palace.

The Summer Palace, Peking (now called Beijing), was where the Dowager Empress ruled her Empire during the summer months. Her Shih Tzu and favorite attendants resided in the Summer Palace throughout her annual stay.

An American was actually among the very first to receive a Shih Tzu as a gift from the Dowager Empress. Sarah Conger, wife of American Minister to China Edwin H. Conger, received the Shih Tzu from the Dowager Empress in 1903.

Centuries ago when East met West on the Ancient Silk Trade Route various Maltese type dogs were mated with Oriental type dogs. The white Shih Tzu is a “throwback” result from the genetic influence of infusion of Maltese bloodlines. I have one Shih Tzu who resembles a Maltese and is solid white. Her name is Blondie. Blondie’s pedigree states all Shih Tzu. I have had people to ask me if Blondie was Maltese.

There is only one known photo of the Dowager Empress with any of Shih Tzu. The photo was taken in a Courtyard scene in 1903 with her ladies in waiting. Various eunuchs are on either side of the Princess. Chief Eunuch Li Lein-Yang helped guide the Shih Tzu breeding program and is pictured with the Dowager Empress. At the Empress’ feet is Hai Ling (Sea Otter), a solid black Shih Tzu, the Empress favorite, who sired many Shih Tzu of various colors within the Palace. This black Shih Tzu reminds me very much of my own solid black Shih Tzu, Duke. Duke has also sired many of the Stain Glass Shih Tzu puppies and of various colors. I also have to admit my Duke is “one” of my favorites of all time.

There is strong indication that the ShihTzu developed in China from ancient lines of dogs of Tibet. One theory is that these ancestors of the modern Shih Tzu were presented by Tibetan Lamas to royal visitors from Chinese courts and taken by them back to Peking, where they were nurtured and cherished as prized possessions of the emperors, and members of the court. Another theory is that the Shih Tzu were exchanged by royal travelers and merchants who were of many cultures and societies traveling along that segment of the ancient “Silk Trade Route” that runs in a generally west to east route from Lhasa, Tibet, to Peking (now known as Beijing), China.

All Oriental dogs, which would include the Shih Tzu, had forms which were quite similar, and was a direct result of the influence of Buddhism. The Lion was said to have been Buddha’s constant companion and on several occasions saved him from death or capture by his enemies. Because the Chinese considered the lion symbolic of Buddha, they used “the King of the Beasts” as a model for breeding their dogs. Among the Oriental dogs produced are the Shih Tzu, the Pekingese, the Chow Chow, the Lhasa Apso, the Spitz, and the Pug.

The lion, as a model for our Shih Tzu, was not native to China, so early Chinese had little concept as to what the lion looked like. It is most likely early Chinese sculptors carved lions from descriptions received about the beasts, and that the Chinese dogs, including our Shih Tzu, were bred to look like the statues rather than like lions themselves.

Connie Limon is a Shih Tzu breeder. She publishes a FREE weekly newsletter. A professional newsletter with a focus upon health and wellness for you and your pets. Discounts are offered to subscribers. Sign up at: http://www.stainglassshihtzus.com

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