In China’s Forbidden City, Dogs Lived the Good Life

Do you love dressing up your dog? Take a look at how the Chinese emperors did it.

Chris Hall  |  Mar 11th 2014


We know there are lots of people who love to dress up their dogs, especially come Halloween or National Dress Up Your Pet Day, but this takes it to a level rarely seen.

The Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto has just opened an exhibition showing artifacts from China’s Forbidden City, the enormous palace that housed the emperors for hundreds of years. The piece that has attracted the most attention so far is a silken robe created for a dog owned by the Guangxu emperor, who reigned from about 1875 to 1908. The final 10 years of his reign were as a figurehead who remained under house arrest by his aunt, the Empress Dowager Cixi.

The robe belonged to a dog named Big Luck, whose breed and sex are unknown. It makes me look at my own wardrobe, comprising mainly jeans and t-shirts, with a little bit of shame. This is an elaborate piece of clothing, custom-fitted to the dog. When worn, it would have covered his or her entire body from nose to tail, and it was embroidered with peonies.

This was not unique to Big Luck, either. Within the Forbidden City, a dog’s life was a pretty good one, at least until the place was looted in the early 20th century. Pu-Yi, the last emperor of China, fled the Forbidden City in 1911 at the age of five. But until that, it couldn’t get much better than being a dog in the Forbidden City.

LiveScience quotes two of the curators responsible for the exhibit, Chen Shen and Weng-Chien Cheng, on the matter of dogs who lived in the Imperial Court. In their book, The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors, the curators write that dogs “reportedly lived in pavilions with marble floors, sleeping on silk cushions, tended by specialized eunuchs who worked for the Dog Raising Office.” Dozens of dog outfits just like Big Luck’s were commissioned by the court ladies, and the name of each was recorded on the lining of the garment. That’s why, although we might not know what Big Luck looked like, or whether Big Luck was a boy or a girl, the name is going down in the books forever.

Considering that kind of luxury and comfort, the old Iggy Pop song, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” could take on a whole new meaning.

Via LiveScience

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