Des animaux sous une chape de plomb


fr Anthropozoologica 18 - Pages 17-28

Published on 01 May 1994

This article is a part of the thematic issue Animals in Chinese culture

Animals under the cope

Whoever is asked about animals in Chinese traditional society is likely to reply "creature of no importance": although ubiquitous in Chinese art and literature, most animals are highly symbolic, such as dragons, the origin of which is archaeologically stressed here. Nevertheless, a serious insight into the archaeological materials available reveals a society strongly based on animal exploitation. Consequently, regardless of what might have been said or written by some 20th century foreign observers, China cannot be said, as a whole and in the long run, a "non-domesticating System". The necessity to start a new research program on animals and Chinese society is emphasized here. The task is enormous, but two starting points can be relied on: archaeological evidence of animal life and domestication through the ages, and techniques of investigation established by Western (mainly French) zoohistorians. As an example, this new approach is outlined here in order to shed a new light on the place of the dog in Chinese society.


Archaeology, Dog, China, Dragon, Domesticating System.

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