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I was organizing my digital photo albums, and came across some of the photos I took during the 2006 Lantern Festival in Taipei. That was the Year of the Dog, so many of the displays tried to incorporate that into their themes. However, I remember being disappointed; the truly artistic lantern constructions (and there were plenty!) had little to do with dogs at all.

So again, the paucity of canine representation in Chinese art…

Rather than wait another 12 year cycle (or rather, seven years until 2018, the next Year of the Dog), I thought I would present some old shots for nostalgia’s sake.

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Photos taken 14 February 2006

A Taiwanese aboriginal figure with what I think is supposed to be a Formosan Mountain dog — except this one is shaped more like a Lab than the most “classic” Formosans with pricked ears and a sickle tail that arches over the back.

This thing was HUGE, towering over all at the entrance to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, where the Lantern Festival was set up that year.

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A scene out of the Jungle Book — Akela the wolf encounters Mowgli.

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Some of the best lanterns featured more traditional and folkloric Chinese images; the dogs featured in such scenes seemed purely incidental. The creature above was probably supposed to be a Pekingese or some other lapdog of the court, like these musicians.

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Not sure I understand the appeal of puppies dangling dangerously off of bare bottoms… but apparently this image is in global circulation as part of some standard iconography of “cute.”

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Would you trust this cop with the REALLY DILATED PUPILS… with this dog? I think it’s supposed to be a Doberman, but again, I’m not sure.

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One of the better creations where the representation was actually somewhat true to form. Apparently I only liked the Basset Hound, because I don’t have pictures of the other breeds featured in this display, though I remember there were several. But maybe, aside from this specific display, none of the others were aiming for “purebred” representations anyway.

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And finally, one mystery dog with pricked ears holding a string of gold ingots. He was part of this rather garish scene…

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… where the dancing lion centerpiece was apparently the most compelling element, since I didn’t bother to document the rest. Alas!

The Taiwan Lantern Festival has now migrated to cities further south on the island, and I haven’t seen it for years. But apparently it’s just about to happen for 2011. Wish I could be there, bombastic music and crazy light shows and all!

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