Animals & Nature

Pekingese: The Imperial Lion Dog, China’s Most Precious

By Michelle Ylaya


Characterized by its flat face and hairy mane, the Pekingese is one of the more uncommon looking breeds.  Though its legs are adorably short, its fiery personality lets you know it has the heart of a lion.

And that’s in fact what the Pekingese was bred to resemble – miniature lions, fitting companions to the Chinese Imperial family.

The Pekingese’s story begins when Buddhism was introduced to China from India as far back as the Han dynasty.  According to a Buddhist legend, Buddha tamed a lion to “follow at his heels like a faithful dog.”  Another legend was that of a lion who the Buddha changed into the size of a marmoset.


Source: Trek Earth

The Chinese converts were mystified with the ferocious animal, which symbolized passion and aggression.

However there were no lions in China, instead the closest to lions in China were dogs. Thus, began the Buddhist monk’s pursuit to breed small dogs into looking like small-scale lions.

Having been bred as far back as 2000 years ago, the Pekingese has one of the earliest written standards for its breed.  The Empress Dowager Cixi writes:

“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 forefront be shaggy; let its forehead be straight and low.

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

The Imperial families were the only ones allowed to own Pekingese dogs, whom commoners were required to bow to.  Their noble rank suited the dominant trait that would become characteristic of the Pekingese breed.

As royal as the history of the Pekingese is, the breed would not have outlived the end of Imperial China, if not for five small Pekingese dogs that the British took back to Queen Victoria in England.

The five were the only Pekingese left when the British overthrew Imperial China. Most of the Pekingese were killed so that they would not fall into the hands of the foreigners.

In England, the Queen grew fond of the affectionate lap dog–and while the Pekingese would continue to live as royals, the leisure class was allowed to breed them as well.  It is thanks to the dog fancy of the period, that the Pekingese continued as a breed outside of China.

Though the emperors of China are long gone, their pride endures with the Pekingese.  This is one adorable lap dog whose loyalty continues to warm dog lovers’ hearts.


Look at this adorable one! (source: Animal Picture Society)


source: Asian History


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