Aus­pi­cious pooch

Cap­i­tal Mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion delves into role, mean­ing of dogs in Chi­nese cul­ture

Global Times - - Front Page - By Huang Tingt­ing

In Chi­nese cul­ture the dog is known not only for its fi­delity but also as a guardian of peace in the un­der­world, ex­hibits sug­gest at the Best Wishes from the Aus­pi­cious Dog ex­hi­bi­tion in Bei­jing.

To mark the up­com­ing Year of the Dog, a col­lec­tion of dog relics is on dis­play at the Cap­i­tal Mu­seum start­ing Fri­day, in­clud­ing a tra­di­tional 12-sec­tion pingfeng fold­ing screen fea­tur­ing Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) no­bles and their hounds as well as a life-size mar­ble dog tomb sculp­ture un­earthed from the Old Sum­mer Palace that at­tracted waves of visi­tors on its open­ing day.

A replica of the cop­per dog head sculp­ture – part of an Old Sum­mer Palace fountain that went miss­ing when Bri­tish and French troops looted the royal gar­den in 1860 – was in­stalled at the ex­hi­bi­tion en­trance against a wall of fes­tive red lanterns.

“My lit­tle girl’s zo­diac an­i­mal is a dog and so I brought her here to get to know more about the an­i­mal,” a Bei­jing mother sur­named Zhang told the Global Times at the ex­hi­bi­tion. “Be­fore the show, I didn’t know that a dog car­ried so many mean­ings in an­cient Chi­nese his­tory and cul­ture.”

Re­li­able com­pan­ion

By ex­plor­ing art­works and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies since pre­his­toric times, the ex­hi­bi­tion un­furls its im­pli­ca­tions as a zo­diac an­i­mal as well as its re­la­tion­ship with Chi­nese peo­ple over the past 2,000 years via relics, doc­u­ments and pic­tures.

Whether hounds chas­ing quarry in Tian­shan Moun­tain pre­his­toric cave fres­cos, zo­diac sym­bols in an­cient paint­ings or pets cud­dled by fat Tang (618-907) and Qing Dy­nasty ladies on scroll paint­ings, dogs have ap­peared as helpers and com­pan­ions through­out Chi­nese pop­u­lar his­tory.

It makes sense as arche­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies show dogs among the first an­i­mals to be do­mes­ti­cated by the fore­fa­thers in China.

Chi­nese peo­ple’s love for the an­i­mal can also be seen in dog jade ac­ces­sories and dec­o­ra­tive sculp­tures at the ex­hi­bi­tion.

As jade tra­di­tion­ally wards off bad luck and pos­sesses pure and beau­ti­ful qual­i­ties beloved by Chi­nese no­bil­ity, a jade dog pen­dant made a per­fect amulet.

Crafts­peo­ple cre­ated ex­quis­ite dog-shaped locks dur­ing the Repub­lic of China (1912-1949). Lock mak­ers try­ing to im­press buy­ers with their del­i­cate de­signs also seemed to be ex­plor­ing the an­i­mal’s im­age as a guardian.

Sug­gest­ing the dog’s role as com­pan­ion in the un­der­world, Han Dy­nasty (206 BC-220 AD) and Qing tombs fea­ture palm-size ce­ramic and jade sculp­tures.

“In an­cient Chi­nese tombs, the im­age of a dog of­ten ap­pears with a rooster prob­a­bly due to the widely-ac­cepted con­cep­tion of ‘rooster rules the morn­ing, dog guards the night,’ which might help in­form the tomb own­ers of that time and bring peace,” reads the ex­hi­bi­tion Chi­nese lan­guage in­tro­duc­tion.

As part of the mu­seum’s lu­nar new year cel­e­bra­tions, the show is sched­uled to run un­til March 18, free of charge. Dogs are not ad­mit­ted.

Pho­tos: Li Hao/GT

A Han Dy­nasty pot­tery chicken and dog stand next to a pot­tery house. A Qing Dy­nasty jade dog sculp­ture

A vis­i­tor reaches out to a replica of the Old Sum­mer Palace cop­per dog head at the show.

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