CHINESE SUPERSTITION AND THE SHAR PEI

 

Introduction

The most distinctive and attractive feature of this breed is the wrinkles over its head and body. It is interesting to know that the wrinkle over the dog's face was once called grandma's face. Given the respectful attitude we Chinese have to the senior citizens, I wonder how on earth we dare to label or associate it with our grand mother's face. I think it may be because of the mature look, i.e. the wrinkles and senior standing that it gave to describe the breed. Unfortunately, it is also the wrinkles that have given this breed it's fundamental problem. Hence, we must have a fine balance of what is acceptable wrinkles and I shall move from the head and continue with my comments. I also would like to remind readers that many of these explanations and method of choosing a SP could be based on superstitious beliefs.

The Head-Long live the king!

The wrinkle itself is called "guarding line", the tighter it is, it is said that the dog would be able to guard better. The guarding line in the middle of the head that goes inward is called a rat line. That indicate the dog is a good ratter. My personal experience confirmed that it is indeed, the case.

The wrinkles or guarding lines in the dog's forehead look very much like a Chinese classical symbol of longevity. Many western readers who have been to Chinese restaurants or in China town would often see that symbol of longevity appearing in shops or in Chinese goods. Hence, the description of the head is called "Sau ge tau" meaning longevity head.

Some readers may have some Chinese knowledge would know that this symbol also bears the similarity of the Chinese character of "king". The large cats' family possess these wrinkles in the forehead that signify the statutes of a king. The mastiff breeds also possess such wrinkles. Hence, this is also called "Wong's feature" meaning sovereign's look.

To sum it up, the wrinkle is therefore vital to the dog to reach the appearance of longevity and the character of the king. But how many wrinkles are need would be a problem to decide because over wrinkles definitely interfere with the dog's eyes. I can say that western breeders have grossly exaggerated the breeding of wrinkles. It is never and should never be more wrinkles the better. I could recall in the sixties, many of the game dogs have little or only very fine wrinkles over their faces. Excessive wrinkle is definitely a genetic fault, I trust that I am not wrong in saying that this was once a problem of the blood hound. Perhaps, blood hound breeders would enlighten me in this point.

The Tiger's eye

From the head we no move to the eye of the dog. There is a description and requirement and a SP need to have a triangular eye. Readers may find that confusing because in the standard, the SP's eye is said to be almond in shape but then why I am describing it to be triangular instead. I trust the following explanation would be helpful.

We Chinese believe that if a person having his eye in triangular shape, that person is mean and would be a killer. Hence, it was said that a SP needs to have a pair of "black bean triangular eye" to describe the dark colour that is required in the SP's eye; the triangular shapes that give that mean and killer look while in game.

Now, we must work on how to achieve that triangular look without conflicting the standard. There is a Chinese saying that the king of beast, the tiger possesses a white forehead and lifted eye. That lifted eye is on the top of the eye where the whiskers stand. When view from a distance that would give the tiger's eye a triangular in shape. Same applies to the SP, the wrinkle on the top of the eye where the whisker stands would give the impression that the dog's eyes have been lifted. As a result, would give the dog's eyes a triangular look instead of the almond shape as stated in the standard.
It is interesting to know that the description of a white forehead and lifted eye tigers do appear in many Chinese folk stories. The colour white is a compliment to the beast's seniority. Such palge or white coat on its forehead and or face gives the beast a mature look. This applies to the SP as well. But I hold a different view, I love a SP with dark face and I shall explain the reason why.

Again, I would have to explore with the western readers to some Chinese myths. There was a man called Chung Qui, he had a big round and black face. He was actually an ugly looking man but it was these powerful and fearsome that he was capable to drive all evil sprits away. He was ranked as demon catcher after his death. He was powerful that he was good enough to catch even the most evil demon. His face was called "Yuen tan" face meaning black face. It is for this reason that many Chinese people would prefer to keep a black dog to look after the house whole because of this superstitious belief. I do personally favor this dark marking over the forehead and face, the reason because it gives the dog the solemn and powerful look that perhaps, may drive all the evil spirits away.

I must stress that this way of judging the dark marking on the forehead and or face not only applies to the SP. It also applies to all Chinese breed of dogs such as the Chows and Pekinese.

 

Nelson Lam

Sharpei Club

Hong Kong