THE COLOR OF THE SHAR PEI

 

Introduction

Since the standard was translated from Chinese to English, the traditional type of breeders in the Shar Pei Breed Club in Hong Kong would have no difficulties to understand and interpret the breed standard; but I am certain that it must have posed problems to the breeders in the western world. I hope this chapter would clear some of the doubts that have been created in the minds of the modern type of the SP breeders. In particularly, in U.S.A. and in U.K. I therefore, shall discuss the color of the dog; the color of the tongue and the controversy surrounding it. So again, I shall take readers to reminisce my journey with the SP and I shall use a SP called Monkey to open this chapter.

Colors.V.Colors

Around the late 1950, I saw my first SP in Victoria Park. Her name was called Monkey and was owned by Ah Chan. Ah Chan used to run a small shop selling Chinese custard cakes, rolls and other egg products next to the entrance of a cinema called Hoover situated in Causeway Road. I could still remember there was a fountain close to the cinema where the tram used as a terminal but where now stands is the Regal Hotel. Chinese readers over the age of forty would recall that little shop that sold those eggs' products that I mentioned, it was owned by Ah Chan and it was called Phoenix Village. So, Ah Chan was called Phoenix Chan by those who knew him. Perhaps, I have over stated that Phoenix Chan owned that shop, he may have equitable rights over it but in fact, it was his wife who actually run the shop and she had the total say in all affairs.

Phoenix Chan was always happy to see me, the reason being that it gave him the best excuse to walk the dog in Victoria Park, to get away from the constant nagging of his boss. Otherwise, he would have to work laboriously at perhaps, whipping the eggs until his wife permitted him to stop. He was of course, more than please to have a little follower who asked him questions that he could be in authority to reply. In later days, we meet up with Uncle Fat, the Shar Pei King and a Mr Hau Chi Wang, a man who influenced me so much in both the superstitious Chinese way of judging dogs and in Chinese literature. I shall in my nest chapter discuss the judging of the SP that would include the superstitious way as well.

*Now, let us move back to Monkey, she had a face that resemblance to that of a monkey, i.e., with distinct wrinkles over her face. She was a creamy colored dog, but one may describe it as even flea bitten gray with a purple colored nose and light purple tongue.

The reason why I use Monkey to commence this chapter is because Monkey was the typical colour that caused the confusion in the standard. I shall try my best to break down each colour referred in the standard and by reference to dogs that I have seen in the past. Monkey's colour, i.e., cream to us Chinese would simply be referred as rice colour. Hence, Western readers could imagine that such color would be referred to and interpreted as some kind of white, light color as well. During the days of my research and talks to SP owners who could enlighten me. One well-known person did raise this point that there was no pure white SP was a Mr K.S. Wai. Mr Wai was one of the first person who showed SP in the HKKC shows in the 60s. For some reasons, his dog was shown under the name of Chinese Fighting Dog instead of Shar Pei. I could still remember that it was a black dog called Eagle Wing. So, both Monkey and Eagle Wing could be described as solid colored dogs. While one was creamy white and the other one black. Western readers may be confused again because colour is color, one can't call black color as white, black as blue, brown as red and or chocolate. The problem lies in the interpretation of colors. Let us take the pink dolphin as an example, if you show us Chinese a pink dolphin and ask for its color, I bet you ten out of ten Chinese would tell you that it would be called a white dolphin. That is to say, there is a total different interpretation of colors between us. This could be explained by our cultural difference.

We must face the fact that whether it is western world or eastern world, it is only when the society become affluent that people could afford to keep pure breed dogs. Further more, to develop canine knowledge and terminology takes time. Since horses and dogs have been our hunting partners for centuries, so let us part the canine for just a little while and look into the equestrian world. Say even if western readers may have no knowledge of the equestrian world and yet, if one describe a horse as bay, chestnut, dun, blue roan, red roan, palomino, etc., western readers would have no difficulties in interpreting and shall at least, have a fair idea and understanding to the color referred. This is a development of sophistication in animal terminology and culture. For us Chinese, we have not developed such sophistication yet when it come to describe the color of our canine friend. Hence, we could only describe the color in very daily usage terms than in sophistication. Further more, to us, many colors associate or represent omen as well. For example, we use blue color to associate with the heaven, the sky. Like wise to western readers would give blue a very romantic description, such as navy blue, midnight blue, etc. We are not yet sophisticated as the Western breeders to define and sub-divided colors. Western breeders could call a black dog as blue, we could never imagine to address a black dog as a blue SP!

If Western breeders say red colour, it simply didn't make sense to an ordinary Chinese. Red associate with flowers, such as the rose, something that is bright. What westerners refer to as red could well mean something as pink or purple to us. So if you show a cream SP like monkey to a Chinese and ask for its color, he would describe it as rice color, rice yellow or lastly, milky white. Cream is a dairy product that is almost vital to western diet but not to us Southern Chinese. In other words, the cultural different determine the way we interpreted the color. To sum it up, whether it is cream or rice color, such color is to describe a light colored dog. It is of course, impossible for me to summit the standard to the HKKC and then to the FCI by referring the color as RICE.

Should I have used the word Rice, would I have caused more confusion to the canine world? Further more, whether we are in an Eastern or Western world, white colour is said to be a none color. Indeed, there is an old Chinese saying that white as well, then I simply couldn't use white as a colour for the SP but logically, accepting cream as a light color.

Light colored dog is of course, not acceptable and infect, rejected by breeders in many other breeds. For this reason, the old boys and I concluded that light colored dog would be acceptable but not preferred.

It is worth mentioning that Traditional SP breeders would infest, craving for a light or cream color SP under an exception or a straight superstitious interpretation of color referred as Ng Hung, meaning Five Red. So, what is a five red? We shall therefore explore he interpretation of the Chinese word Hung first. Western readers by now should have gathered the idea that the word hung means red and the wording means five. Red color, in olden days was also referred as Jushar, a kind of dye for paint. In particularly, when scholar and or artist sealed their signatures after their creations. It would be obvious that apart from the scholars, artists who used the Jushar, the nobles or wealthy ones also sealed their signatures with a chop by using this color. As stated earlier on in this essay, red or the Jushar color would include something pinkish red or to some extend, purple. Hence, one would not be surprised to hear or learn from a Chinese by referring a liver colored nose as jushar nose. By now, I can dislcose the superstitious reason why the red nose is preferred by taking a look in the animal kingdom at large. The monarch of the beast is of course, tiger and not lion. Both big cats possessed this kind of jushar nose, i.e., red nose with some black spot and that distinguish mark on the forehead likewise to the SP. I shall discuss the distinguish wrinkle on the forehead in detail in another article. In the mean time, western readers must first, understand the five red which in effect, referred to the color of the nose, tongue, anus, paw and color surrounding the eyes if it is a creamy white dog. But should the dog itself is in the color of red, then one need not to refer to the color surrounding the eyes but counting the body color itself as red and hence, make up the total of five red.

For the above stated reasons, a creamy colored dog with the five reddish color would be considered to have a great value. That is to say, should a light colored dog with a pink or, purple colored tongue would be accepted as an exception from normal standard.

 Nelson Lam

Sharpei Club

(Hong Kong )