2018 is the Year of the Dog, according to the Chinese zodiac, but what does it mean?
Unlike the signs in the western zodiac which are based on the monthly positions of the sun and constellations, the twelve signs in Chinese zodiac are decided by the yearly Chinese lunar calendar, and are all animals.
Except the mythological dragon, the other eleven creatures are commonly seen on farms, which characterised ancient China. The dog is the eleventh sign.
But what does the dog mean in Chinese culture compared to British?
Traditionally, China was a society based on agriculture. For cultivating purposes, horses and bulls created more value for farmers, since they are fed on grass and good at raking and trekking. However, the only job that dogs could do was to safeguard the house.
Beyond that, dog’s waiving tail and nodding head were regarded as a sign of being needy and slavery. Thus dogs were always used to describe snobby people.
Idioms and slang about dogs are 90% negative, as in “dog’s leg” meaning ass-kisser, “dogs jump over the wall” implying people with bad manners.
Years back, China’s city Yulin was ditched by animal care organisations, because of its dog meat eating culture, where butchers killed dogs and made them into dishes. The government said the local culture would not be banned but illegal conducts like dog stealing and maltreating should be taken seriously.
But on the other hand, dogs are deemed as the most loyal and faithful animal in China. According to a business report in 2017, there were around 85 million pet dogs in China – that’s more than there are people in the UK!
Man’s best friend
In English, “lucky dogs” denotes lucky people. Or, “every dog has his day, and you will have yours,” a pep talk.
ITV polled 10,000 people to list Britain’s top 100 favourite dogs. The Labrador came out on top, and they are the most popular assistant dogs in the world. If reigned, they are able to help with everything from doing the washing to answering the phone.
Nowadays in China: online slang
Among Chinese young netizens, “dog” is used in a thousand sarcastic ways to describe themselves.
“Single dog” is frequently mentioned on Valentine’s Day, as bachelor’s humour to depict loneliness.
“Knackered like a dog” means being too tired and laying down like a lazy dog.
Chinese Pekes: a hit in England
Pekes, China’s speciality dog breed, were taken to England where they immediately became a hit. They were traditionally only raised by royal members in the capital city of Peking (now Beijing). It wasn’tt until 1860 when the British took over the city of Peking that common people were allowed to buy one of these doggies.