Who was Panhu?

This tale begins with a beautiful caterpillar, shimmering in all colors of the rainbow, nesting inside an ear. Opinions vary on whose ear this was exactly, as this tale takes place thousands of years ago, in a country now known as China. Some say it was the ear of a woman living in the palace, others say it was in the ear of the Queen, while others insist it was in the ear of the King Di Ku himself. Whoever it was, it brought them years of great pain and discomfort, and caused a mysterious illness, up until the day a doctor pulled the 7cm long creature, looking like a silkworm, out of that ear. The creature was so special, and so unique, they decided to keep it. They placed it in a jar and covered it with a plate. To everyone’s great surprise, they heard barking from the jar just a few days later. The creature had transformed into a dog and was named Pan (plate) Hu (jar), quickly becoming everyone’s favorite pet. Some legends even say Panhu was 6-meter-long colorful dragon dog. 

Now at the time, King Diku had a very strained relationship with Marshal Wu of the State of Quanrong, who was a very brave and fierce warrior. When Marshal Wu threatened the safety of the capital, Diku declared that anyone who would bring him the head of Marshal Wu, would be granted gold, given a noble rank, and can marry his daughter. However, no one answered the call. Soon after, Panhu went missing. 

Our 4-legged hero appeared days later, holding a bleeding head in his mouth. Running straight to Diku, he placed Marshal Wu’s head in front of him. The death of Marshal Wu meant the defeat of Quanrong and a retreat of their troops. All that was left to do was to reward the hero. But how could a princess marry a dog?! 

To avoid great disaster that could befall the country, due to promises unkept, Diku agreed to marry the princess to Panhu. However, the legend brings an interesting twist. Panhu could talk! And he told the King to leave him under a bell for 7 days and 7 nights, after which Panhu would turn into a man. 

Diku did as he was told, and as Panhu lay under the bell, the princess was worried sick. She lifted the bell, uncovering Panhu on the 6th day, and the magic was broken. Panhu’s transformation was not complete; he had the body of a man, but the head of a dog. 

After this, the legend tells us that Panhu took his new wife, the princess, away from the capital city. They settled in the mountains, deep in the forest, living in a stone cave. They had 12 children, 6 boys and 6 girls. These children are believed to have become the leaders of the famous 12 clans of Chinese mythology, and the forefathers of the Yao and She people.

To this day the legend of Panhu and the princess endures among the Yao and She nationalities in southern China, as they believe they are their descendants. 

The Chinese culture is rich in legends and myths, and this particular tale is relevant to all of us, as it is believed that Panhu was a Shar Pei! I’m sure this comes as no surprise to any pei owner, as we witness their royal attitude daily. 

Chen, Lianshen. Chinese Myths & Legends. Cambridge University Press, 2011. 92-94

#legend #mythology #panhu

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