Every dog has its day, but one area of China has “Man’s Best Friend” getting some extra special treatment–namely, that of a god.
The Miao people of Jiaobang Village in China’s Guizhou province have a sacred ceremony that they faithfully and lovingly carry out every year. Legend has it that in ancient times, the first group of wandering travelers who settled in the area were plagued by a great thirst. Even in the modern era, Guizhou province’s natural beauty and geographic landmarks also come with the dangers of drought and desertification. According to the story, a blessed dog appeared before the settlers and guided them to drinking water.
For centuries, the villagers have shown their thanks with their annual Dog Carrying Festival. Each year, a dog is chosen to represent the god, dressed in elegant, tailor-crafted clothing, adorned with jewelry and paraded around on an ornately carved and painted throne. The pooch’s palanquin is lifted onto the shoulders of several men who raise it above the local farmers’ rice paddy fields.
The townspeople all gather to praise and heap adoration on the canine, especially hoping that it will grant them the favor of a bountiful and safe harvest. Some villagers even have mud thrown on themselves to show deference and humility before the dog-turned-god. A shaman wielding a black scepter presides over the ritual, which also promises to bestow health and peace to those who observe it properly and ardently. There’s also plenty of chanting, singing, and drumming involved.
Some concerned individuals, mainly animal rights advocates, view the ceremony as a cruel act of exploitation. They believe that no animal should be put under the intense pressure of such a public ceremony or be forced to wear clothes or human jewelry.
Still, compared to harvest festivals in notable works of literature and cinema (I’m looking at you The Wicker Man), the Dog Carrying Festival seems quite sweet and tame. I certainly wouldn’t mind getting to be a god for the day.