Eunuchs and their personal hierarchies ran the Imperial households. Li Lien-Yang whom Tzu Hsi (The Empress Dowager) named Chief Eunuch was made responsible for overseeing the breeding and Shih Tzu selections to be presented to her for possibilities of becoming part of her “Shih Tzu entourage. ”
The Empress kept complete pedigrees and descriptions of physical markings for all Shih Tzu used as breeding stock. Imperial selections of the best specimens of Shih Tzu were based on health, temperament, conformation, and markings. Because of religious reasons, Shih Tzu of parti-colors with perfect facial marking and perfect saddle were held in high esteem by the Empress. Solid color Shih Tzu were prized by her as well.
Although many of today’s breeders assume Empress Dowager favored gold and the gold and white Shih Tzu, and even think the Empress surrounded herself only with gold and the gold-white Shih Tzu, the assumption is most likely not true. The favorite Shih Tzu of all time of the Empress Dowager was a solid black Shih Tzu, named Sea Otter.
The Empress Dowager was wise about the laws of Shih Tzu color inheritance. She knew of the importance of the darker shades of brindle and silver and of black in maintaining pigmentation of Shih Tzu eye color and coat color.
The Chinese produced pure lines of dogs, such as the Shih Tzu, for centuries before the practice became prevalent in the West.
For political reasons, the Empress entertained wives of various ambassadors and diplomats from time to time, and gave them valuable gifts. In the beginning Shih Tzu were not among the gifts, despite the interest the foreign ladies showed toward the Shih Tzu. Eventually, a few of the Shih Tzu were given as gifts to foreigners, but there is some evidence that the eunuchs fed powdered glass to the Shih Tzu to cause death rather than permit them to leave China. The Shih Tzu were kept as secret for many, many years.
Westerners living in China at the time considered association with the Dowager Empress to be the highest form of status. This attention from visitors may have been instrumental in the Dowager Empress’ decision to present some of her treasured Shih Tzu to her admirers.
By the early 1900s, several Shih Tzu were introduced into Europe by returning diplomats and ladies. Also, the eunuchs assigned to breeding, whelping, and general maintenance of the Imperial Shih Tzu would do anything for financial gain. There were indications that falsified breedings took place and Shih Tzu puppies were bartered and sold outside the Forbidden City of affluent Chinese and even to the Foreign Devils.
It has been speculated that the Dowager Empress had the Emperor Kuang-hsu secretly murdered just hours before her own suicidal death so that she would be the last Imperial Ruler of China. With her death, along with all else that occurred, the fate of the Shih Tzu became tenuous.
Fire destroyed animals and large portions of the inner chambers. The eunuchs who fled prior to the fires within the Palace took much of the Shih Tzu breeding stock and finest specimens to sell to foreigners and Chinese noblemen who would pay handsome prices for the Shih Tzu dogs and treasures of the Palace.
In Peking The Comtesse d”Anjou was the recipient of some of the Palace Shih Tzu stock. Mrs. Lorenz had two black ShihTzu, Mei-mei and Moer in the 1930s. Mrs. Lorenz owned a Shih Tzu kennel of almost all black Shih Tzu, and one of her studs, Chu Po, a solid black Shih Tzu with a strong gold gene behind him, was a great grandson of Hai Ling (Sea Otter), a favorite of the Dowager Empress.
Our present day Shih Tzu exemplify the great love the Dowager Empress had for the Shih Tzu breed. Under her half century of direction and influence, the Imperial Shih Tzu flourished and developed in uniformity. These intelligent little beings brought great happiness to her at times of excessive loneliness and sorrow. The Empress Dowager was a multi-faceted person of great depth. The Empress lives on as a spiritual guide and patroness of our present day Shih Tzu.
Connie Limon is a Shih Tzu breeder. She publishes a FREE weekly newsletter. A professional newsletter with a focus upon health and wellness for you and your pets. Discounts are offered to subscribers. Sign up at: http://www.stainglassshihtzus.com