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Our Beloved Shih Tzu - Where Did it All Begin?


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There is one person in particular who did very much to encourage the Lion Dog mystique of the Shih Tzu. Her name was Dowager Empress T'zu His, a concubine that took over the imperial throne and governed China ruthlessly and cynically for half a century. We owe our present day Shih Tzu to the efforts of this woman. The circumstances in which this mystique developed and thrived are absolutely incredible. At some points in the Shih Tzu history it looked as if this breed would not survive and yet it did and went on to become one of the most popular breeds of all time.

For hundreds of years all kinds of small dogs had been bred and very much loved in China. The Europeans were emerging from the Dark Ages and the Chinese were thriving in a much sophisticated civilization. The achievements of the Chinese were so great that as far back as the sixth century B. C. , the Chinese considered themselves a “special people" that lived in the center of the universe.

Dowager Empress T'zu Hsi had a mind much superior to her environment. She was skilled in the classics, paintings, calligraphy and dog breeding. Unfortunately, she lived in a period of great change. During the days of her youth, she ruled her country by her beauty. In later years, she ruled with a shrewd sense of cunning and calculation. She became known as a cruel and ruthless ruler having little regard for anyone but herself, with one exception, and that being the love she gave to her beloved shag dogs - The Shih Tzu.

Dowager Empress T'zu Hsi controlled the dying Ch'ing (Manchu) dynasty until her death (a suicide) in 1908.

So how did it all begin? The actual origin of the Shih Tzu (the Lion Dog) is full of mystery and legends of ancient China and Tibet. There is a common belief that our present day Shih Tzu came from the Lion Dogs took to China during the Manchu dynasty as tributes from Tibet or as gifts from the Grand Lamas to the Imperial Court of China. There are other theories of course. One is that Central Asia is the origin of the ancestors of today's Pekingese, Pug and Shih Tzu.

Shih Tzu historians from our past have documents substantiating that prior to A. D. 624 dogs from Malta, Turkey and Persia were exported as gifts to China. There are actually numerous historical accounts about dogs being introduced into China from Tibet. Up until 1908, there was a constant importation of dogs from Tibet into China. Some historians believe it is very probable the Chinese dog is altogether of Tibetan origin and is derived by the Chinese from the Western countries.

The brachycephalic characteristics of the Lion Dog tell us Central Asia is the origin of our current Pekingese, Pug and Shih Tzu. There is an early skull of this type of dog in the British Museum.

The earliest known period for recorded history and preserved artifacts, which includes the skeletal remains of dogs, occurred during the Shang dynasty (c 1480-1050 B. C. ). This was discovered by archeological studies in the Yellow River Basin at Anyant in 1921 where an archive of treasures enabled archeologists to document with almost complete accuracy the history of this time period.

China developed a highly specialized society rich in culture and artistic achievement very early on, and behind the walls of the Imperial Palace in the heart of Peking where only members of nobility and the imperial eunuchs were permitted, generation after generation of Shih Tzu were bred.

Source: The Complete Shih Tzu by Victor Joris

Written by: Connie Limon I raise shih tzu puppies for show or pet (I prefer loving pet owners). Purchase shih tzu puppies and topknot bows at For a variety of reprint articles visit Camelot Articles at


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