As Chinese economy develops, pet raisers in China increase. There are five cities recognized as having the most pet raisers in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzou, Chongqing and Wuhan. As it was predicted, the number of pet raisers will develop at a much higher speed in future 10 years.
According to the statistics of July 2006, the registered pets of Beijing was about 534,000, together with unregistered dogs and pet animals, the total pets of Beijing would have exceeded 1 million. If spending roughly RMB100 on each pet per month, the total expenditure of Beijing people on pets was estimated to be over 1.2 billion each year.
There are mainly four kinds of people raising pets: those young generations with much pressure on work and family who raise pet for releasing annoyance and tension, those elders who feel lonely and view pets as life companion, those parents who need pets for their children as daily playmates and those rich people who raise pets to show off their wealth and status.
As to Beijing people, no matter old Beijing residence, or young generations, raising pets has long been a tradition. Beijing people have been leading a much superior life than that of other China cities, and this has directly formed the relaxing and gratifying life attitude of Beijing people. In the past, old Beijing people view pets as Wanwu (playthings). Raising pets is more like a hobby from which they may gain much enjoyment and satisfaction. At the same time raising pets is an adorable and elegant thing. It can be as elegant as playing chess, drinking tea or discussing drawing which well explained the wide popularities of pets raising in Beijing.
There are mainly four kinds of pets raised by Beijing people: birds, insects, fish and animals.
An old saying well described the lives of the old fogies and young diehards of Qing dynasty: carry cages and play with birds all day long. This sentence is just anastomosing with the pictures of some Beijing parks corners: with bird cages hung on the tree branches or placed at the stone table nearby, a group of elders are doing excises. They are of course not only excising themselves, but also training birds. They feed birds, encourage them sing, teach them speak and communicate through hearts. With birds on hands, they get excised, and more importantly they could show off to their friends and passersby how smart and skillful their birds are, and gain some satisfaction and happiness for life from others’ approval and praise. Think over it, that bird as a pet can still maintain popular has its reasons. If you go to the newly reconstructed Qianmen street, you would easily notice a the long row of hanging bird cages along the street, and the bird cages has become an important symbol of old Beijing.
The birds raised by Beijing people have two kinds: birds from North China with beautiful singing and birds from South China with beautiful leather.
In the past pigeons were raised in most Beijing families. These were described in many famous literature works such as Luotuo Xiangzi by Laoshe and Beijing People by Caoyu. They all had detailed description on Beijing pigeon markets at that time: There were many hot pigeon markets in Beijing which were opened at different date, such as Huguosi Temple fair on 7th and 8th of each month and Rongfusi Temple fair on 9th and 10th of each month. Apart from these two big pigeon market in Beijing, there was also a daily pigeon market in Huashi, Chongwen distirct. Every time there was a fair, numbers of cages of pigeons from China other provinces would be transported to Beijing. Different varieties and standards met different people’s needs. When winter was almost over, Beijing people had the interests of climbing to Wanchun Pavilion in Jingshan park to watch pigeons. When seeing and hearing pigeons whistling in blue sky, we cannot help thinking: under these red walls and yellow roof, Beijing stories are not only about history and culture, but also about the vigorous and vivid people’s lives.
Insects are another popular pets among Beijing people. Cricket and katydid are certainly the stars. There are three standards for grading the cricket and katydid: with good singing, with fresh color and good looking, and with active and aggressive temper. Beijing people would usually buy a pair, never in singular number because for one reason double means good luck in China, and for another they can play with each other and sing better if there are two.
The cricket raisers usually hang the cricket cage on the eves, door head or trees in the Siheyuan (coutaryard). And at night, these crickets’ singing would resound in the Siheyuan and their songs can always last until winter comes.
People raise insects of course is not for listening to their singings only, but also for cricket fight. Passionate cricket lovers usually spend much money on buying crickets’ houses. Idealist houses are actually clay jars made by Chengjiang clay baked in a kiln. Before it is used, it should be boiled with tea leaves and other Chinese medicines for at least 4 hours in this way to make it easily maintain clean and dry.
Every time from Middle Autumn Day to Chung Yeung Festival (Ninth Lunar September), those cricket raisers would prepare “battlefields” and send invitations for cricket fight. By wining these games, they gain much more than the enjoyment of winners, but money (gamble fund).
Fish has lots of meanings in Chinese culture. In Chinese fish spells Yu, the same sound as the Chinese “superabundance”. Chinese people have been wishing for an abundant life since ancient time, and they based their hopes on many of real things. So at most festivals, especially spring festival, fish is a must-have dish of the dinner table.
Same reason at goldfish, people raise goldfish for good luck. Goldfish have different types. In Beijing people’s eyes, imperial officials raise so called “four-tail” golden fish (Xiao Jinyu) which is very valuable and “two-tail” goldfish which is called Xiao Jinyuer in Beijing language is usually raised by ordinary and poor citizens. Though a slight difference between their spellings, their values and status are totally different. Goldfish resist coldness, so they are widely raised in cold winter. Poor people would raise some Xiao Jinyuer in a rectangular glass jar for their children for fun and those rich people would raise valuable Xiao Jinyu in a big pot or pool for appreciation or show-off.
As to other animal pets, cats and dogs are the first choices. Beijing people are very particular about the varieties of cats. Those cats with longer hair are more popular and expensive. As to the color, white or yellow ones are usually superior, and then black and mixed color. Beijing people don’t like white-tailed cat because they think it would bring bad luck to them. Talk about the eyes of cat, if it has two different colors, they are so called Persian Cats by Beijing people and views as much more valuable. Beijing people think raising cats is noble hobby, so usually cats can be sent as gifts between friends and relatives. So at old times people don’t want to sell cat because if you do it, it means you are bankrupt.
Dogs were popular pets too, but they were much fewer than cats. Huguosi Temple fair was also a hot market for dogs trading too. Those who were rich would often go to this fair for searching and buying dogs. Sleeve dog and Bagou were the most popular ones. Sleeve dog was only as big as a palm, but it was very active and aggressive, so it was also called fighting dog. It can be hided inside the owners’ sleeves, and when it was time to take a battle game, the dog then would be put on a table and fight violently with his opponent dogs on the watch of their owners.
For most Beijing families in the past, or even right now, people like to raise Jingba dogs in Siheyuan or their homes. Jingba dog was a special type of dog originated from China at thousands of years ago. The dog was very favored among the people of royal court and considered as treasure ones. Jingba dog has two big eyes, cute looking and mild temper. Until now Jingba dog is still widely raised by many Beijing families.
Currently there are two biggest dog markets in Beijing: Liyuan dog market in Tongzhou district and Daitou dog market in Chaoyang district, especially former one which is now considered as the legalist dog market in Beijing.