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We have probably all seen people being carried by animals, but not the other way around. The scene of people carrying a solemnly dressed dog on a sedan chair almost sounds like a plot in a surrealist novel, but it did take place in a Chinese village for years.
The photos of some villagers carrying a dog dressed in traditional Miao people’s clothes have recently gone viral. It is a time-honored ritual in Jiaobang village of Guizhou’s Jianhe County. Each year on the dragon day of July in the Chinese calendar (there’s a dragon day in every twelve days, and it is usually the first dragon day the ritual is held), dogs are dressed up and carried around town on a sedan chair, with villagers lining up along the way to throw mud at each other or to rub mud on each other’s face in the hope of bringing prosperity for the year to come.
The Miao people in the village believe that their ancestors were saved from dying of thirst by a dog who helped them find the source of water. The villagers have thus carried on the ritual for years to worship the dog like a god in gratitude to the species while affirming their belief that all life is equal. The ritual is so well-received among the locals that even the Jianhe County has listed it as a cultural heritage.
However, many people in China seemed to question the belief, because although the human dress is tailored to the dog’s size, the chair appeared to be rather narrow, while in previous years there were also pictures of dogs being chained to the chairs. According to People’s Daily, some netizens even imagined in the dog’s perspective: “Let me down!” Like many other rituals involving the participation of animals, whether it is essential for the honorable aspiration as it is claimed or simply for the benefits of human beings is once again caught in the center of controversy.
Some even associated the ritual with the notorious Yulin Dog Meat Festival, a feast on dog meat carried on by the locals of the city in south China’s Guangxi Province on every summer solstice, despite the fact that the festival faces a storm of denounces by both Chinese people and animal lovers overseas. They believe that the Dog Carrying Festival is a contrast to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.