These dogs help guard a huge hoard of national treasures every night. The museum, the country’s imperial palace from 1421 until the fall of the Chinese monarchy in 1911, houses as many as 1.86 million cultural relics. The collection of this single museum accounts for 42 per cent of the whole country’s registered national-level precious cultural relics.
Chang Fumao, 59, heads the five-person canine patrol squad. His office, also his bedroom, is hidden near the western gate of the palace complex. Before nightfall, visitors and the rest of the museum staff leave. Mr Chang and his colleagues are most familiar with the shadowy face of the ancient complex, where they are on duty from dusk to dawn.
Mr Chang started work helping monitor the museum when he was 20. In the 1980s the human guards had the help of only sound detectors in the exhibition halls. When something abnormal was heard they would rush to the scene in case there was a burglar.
“Sometimes I felt terrified checking the empty and dark palaces alone,” Mr Chang said. “There are many folk legends about supernatural phenomena, like ghosts, in the Forbidden City at night.”
A guard dog was a welcome addition. A German shepherd named Tiger became his friend for night patrol. “I’ve loved raising dogs since I was very young,” he said. “Tiger also gave me courage at first.”
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But there was a ban on large dogs in downtown Beijing at that time, and the museum was no exception. Tiger was sent to the countryside. Shortly after that, a burglar sneaked into the palace. “My colleagues were very close to catching the burglar,” Mr Chang said. “They watched him climb over the wall.”
Mr Chang suggested organising a canine patrol squad at the museum and, in 1987, dogs came back. Mr Chang became not only a dog trainer but also headmaster of a puppy care centre.
He chose four-month-old puppies, most selected from the countryside or police stations, and began to train his young wards. “That’s how you can find each dog’s talent,” he said.
Tradition even applies to the types of food eaten. Northern Chinese eat dumplings, which symbolise wealth because their shape resembles old fashioned Chinese gold and silver ingots. Meanwhile fish is a popular dish as the word “fish” has the same pronunciation as the word for “abundance”.
“Some are particularly good at fetching a ball from a long distance. That means they are good at tracking. Some have the keenest sense of smell, and some of the more energetic ones like biting things.”
When each dog is a year old it is given a tailored training course. Most start their career as guard dogs after three months’ intense training. “Chasing and biting abilities are among the most valued characteristics of the dogs because they learn that the burglar is the top enemy,” Mr Chang said.
At 4:30am, Mr Chang rises to give the dogs their morning practice. The entire Forbidden City is their training ground. They must finish before 7am, when some other museum employees start work.
After 5:30pm, when the palace gates are closed, more training begins as the dogs warm up for their night-time shifts. It is a separate world that many museum employees, let alone visitors, do not realise exists.
The Forbidden City is the world’s most visited museum – it had about 16.7 million visits last year – and it is not always easy to make sure everyone obeys the rules.
The museum also is immense, at 860,000sq yd. The dogs occasionally find people who have hidden in the museum at night, but the rule-breakers are generally released without charge if they have not stolen or broken anything.
This year is going to the dogs…literally, according to Chinese zodiac. February 16, 2018 (the Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year), through February 4, 2019, is known as the Year of the Dog, more specifically the Earth Dog. But I quickly discovered your personal luck for the year ahead really depends on when you were born.
“If I caught a burglar, I would become really well-known,” Mr Chang said. “However, at least we have prevented potential accidents and saved national treasures from being damaged. That’s the most important thing, right?”
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In 2011, in the museum’s most recent theft, a burglar stole seven pieces of historic treasure from a temporary jewellery exhibition. He was later caught and all the lost items were recovered. Now a guard dog is assigned to every courtyard with a temporary exhibition to keep an even closer eye on exhibits.
The museum also has a video surveillance system that leaves no angles unseen, said Shan Jixiang, the museum’s director. “We now have a comprehensive security system combining people, dogs and machines. We have chubby cats all over the palace but dogs are the unseen animal heroes.”
Mr Chang praised the dogs as well. “People get sleepy, and machines sometimes malfunction. But the dogs are alert even when they are sleeping. They are the most reliable line of defence.” When and where patrols pass remain top-secret.
Guard dogs for the former imperial palace retire when they are seven years old, when it is possible they may be “unable to catch up with a young person in their 20s at full speed”, Mr Chang said. They spend their last years at the museum, and a few now among the group are retirees.
Mr Chang will retire next year, and worries that few young people will be willing to take his place, but the other four humans in the squad are younger than Mr Chang.
“This job is about being bitten,” Mr Chang said. “It’s common in training to get hurt by mistake. I cannot remember how many rabies vaccines I’ve had. But I love dogs and have raised dogs all my life, which is good enough.”
This article was originally produced and published by China Daily. View the original article at chinadaily.com.cn
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Chef Robert Levenson show off Chinese new Year dish at Eastwind at Resorts Casino in Atlantic City Friday Feb 9, 2018. (The Press of Atlantic City / Edward Lea Staff Photographer)
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Smiley Fale dish the Chinese new Year at Eastwind at Resorts Casino in Atlantic City Friday Feb 9, 2018. (The Press of Atlantic City / Edward Lea Staff Photographer)
Fortune Market dish from the Chinese new Year at Eastwind at Resorts Casino in Atlantic City Friday Feb 9, 2018. (The Press of Atlantic City / Edward Lea Staff Photographer)
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Chinese New Year is upon us. While the American New Year doesn’t really have much significance other than a few parties the night before and a big ball dropping, the Chinese New Year has been around for centuries and is celebrated in grand fashion. Beginning Friday, Feb. 16, it runs for 15 days and features gift giving, fireworks and gourmet family dinners.
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Perhaps the most fun aspect of Chinese New Year (from an American perspective anyway) is that each year is named for one of the 12 different animals of the Chinese Zodiac. And as luck would have it, 2018 is named after a particular favorite animal for most humans — the dog, which symbolizes loyalty, sincerity and kindness.
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So, for those of you itching to celebrate the Year of the Dog right here in South Jersey, here are a few ways to do just that.
For the entire month of February, Eastwind will offer a special Chinese New Year menu. The list of items features everything from savory entrees such as their Spirit of Prosperity — a whole lobster in ginger and scallions — to dessert (red bean soup), with something to suit every guest. Eastwind is located at Resorts Atlantic City,1133 Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Go to ResortsAC.com for more info.
Eastwind will pull out all the stops this Chinese New Year with a special menu of uniquely named dishes including Smiley Fale, Fortune Market, Abunclant of Luck, Pu Pu Platter and Spirit of Prosperity.
In honor of Chinese New Year, Lillie’s at Golden Nugget will put together a new menu. Specials created for Chinese New Year include pig feet, whole chicken, whole fish, lamb belly stew abalone and oyster with black seaweed. Lillie’s is located at Golden Nugget Atlantic City, 600 Huron Ave., Atlantic City. Go to GoldenNugget.com for info.
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In honor of the Year of The Dog, Harry’ s Oyster Bar at Bally’s Atlantic City will offer a giant foot-long hot dog topped with pickled cabbage yu mei. But grab this quick because it won’t be around for long! Harry’s Oyster Bar is located at 1900 Pacific Ave. in Atlantic City. For more info, go to HarrysOysterBar.com.
Buddakan celebrates Chinese New Year in traditional style, with some amazing Chinese dishes including Peking duck and crispy fish. In addition to the food, they will give away red envelopes — a tradition for Chinese New Year — that contain mystery gifts. 1 Oceanic Terrace, Atlantic City. Go to BuddakanAC.com.
Absecon Lighthouse is one of the most picturesque spots in all of South Jersey, and it’s also dog friendly. That’s right, dogs are welcome to climb the many steps all the way to the top of the tower in order to enjoy the majestic views right along with you. Absecon Lighthouse is located at 31 S. Rhode Island Ave., A.C. Go to AbseconLighthouse.com for more info.
While the name alone seems like a good enough reason to stop in for a pint and a bite, Dogtooth Bar and Grill is as dog friendly as they come, so feel free to bring your best four-legged friend in anytime. Dogtooth Bar and Grill is located at 100 E. Taylor Ave. in Wildwood. Go to DogToothBar.com for more info.
What better way to let your dog know that it’s his or her year than with a treat from Cape May Peanut Butter Company? With locations in both Cape May and Smithville, this paradise for peanut butter lovers offers — you guessed it — peanut butter dog treats! Forget the pet aisle at your supermarket, this stuff is the real deal. Your canine will thank you for it. Cape May Peanut Butter Company is located at 516 Carpenter Lane in Cape May. For more info go to CapeMayPeanutButterCo.com.
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Consistently the most interesting and beloved portion of Ocean City’s annual Doo-Dah Parade — and that’s saying a lot considering this year’s grand marshal is none other than Erik Estrada of CHiPs — the Boardwaddle includes of hundreds of floppy-eared Basset Hounds strutting their stuff along the parade route. Many of the hounds are in costume and others are up for adoption through Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue which sponsors the event. The parade will be held at noon on April 14. For more info, go to TriStateBassets.org.
Looking to do a weekend in A.C. with man’s best friend? Showboat has got you covered. One of the only major hotels in Atlantic City to allow guests of the canine variety, Showboat will happily accept pooches up to 75 pounds. Showboat Hotel is located at 801 Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Go to ShowboatHotelAC.com for more info.
While some beaches allow dogs in the offseason, at Wildwood’s beach between Glenwood and Maple avenues, dogs are a year-round thing. Can’t find it? Just look for the 25-foot tall fire hydrant! The beach is open daily from 6 a.m. until dusk. All dogs must be kept on leashes. Go to WildwoodsNJ.com for more info.
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Those looking to add a bit of culture to their celebration of the Year of the Dog will enjoy Fool Moon’s production of “Sylvia,” coming in June. “Sylvia” is a romantic comedy that tells the story of a man, his wife and their dog. What could be more perfect? Gateway Playhouse is located at 738 Bay Ave. in Somers Point. Go to GatewayByTheBay.org.
Who doesn’t love a parade? Bally’s will celebrate in grand style at their annual Lunar New Year Parade which runs from 2 to 4 p.m Saturday, Feb 17. Located at 1900 Boardwalk, A.C. Go to Caesars.com/ Ballys-AC.
Borgata will put everyone in the right frame of mind to celebrate, as its Chinese New Year Dragon Dance makes its way through the casino. Look for it 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb 17. 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City. Go to TheBorgata.com.
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