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Beijing resident Zhang Dai recently bought himself a gift symbolizing good luck for the Year of the Dog, which begins on Friday.

Zodiac animals are portrayed in mugs designed by Jeff Dayu Shi for the Chinese years of the rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, monkey, goat and rooster. [Huang Zhiling/chinadaily.com.cn]

"With the lunar Chinese Year of the Dog drawing near, I specially purchased a hound mug designed by master designer Jeff Dayu Shi to usher in a prosperous new year, " he said.

Zhang likes collecting works of art. And this is the third year in a row that he has purchased an animal mug designed by Shi. He says that he expects much from the famed American designer"s animal mug each year.

"The master designer"s innovative work always gives a pleasant surprise to me and my family," Zhang said.

Shi was born in 1964 to parents who moved to Taiwan from the Chinese mainland in 1949. At 21, he left Taiwan to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and later worked as a designer for the luxury jewelry company Harry Winston.

In 1996, he won the DeBeers Diamonds International Award, equivalent to the Oscars of the jewelry world.

He was honored with the Red Dot Design Award four years in a row, from 2009 to 2012, for designs that included the Twins Round/Square Teapot Set and the bamboo chairs Jun-Zi and Qin-Jian. The Red Dot Design Award is hailed as one of the top three design awards in the world.

The Greetings of the Hound mug is Shi"s eighth release of the Chinese Zodiac mug series. He also has designed mugs for the Chinese years of the rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, monkey, goat and rooster.

According to the Chinese zodiac, there are 12 animals that each represent a year in turn.

"On the eve of 2018, I took inspiration from China’s native hound breed in designing this Chinese zodiac edition mug to commemorate the loyal hunting companions of forefathers in the ancient land of China, to let the ancient Chinese dog’s distinctive stance reappear for the world to see," Shi said.

The bas-relief on the Greetings of the Hound mug in black and white shapes the figure of a Chinese hound.

Hounds were bred in ancient China as native hunting dogs. Hunting paintings from both the Five Dynasties (907-960AD) and Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) clearly depict the slender yet strong and vigorous figures of hounds accompanying Kublai Khan and the Khitan people on their hunting trips, Shi said.

The Ten Prized Dogs Album painting series by Giuseppe Castiglione depicts a hound capturing a rabbit, a hound capturing a deer, a pair of hounds at play and an agile hound jumping, with a stature as magnificent as an eagle and fierce as a tiger, an accurate portrayal of the hound.

Castiglione, an Italian missionary, was an artist for three emperors in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

In the paintings, the four limbs of the hound are depicted as strong and slender, with a remarkable bone structure, not only due to the artist’s outstanding ability in drawing a general depiction of the dog, but also because such a nimble and beautiful breed of dog known for its slender figure existed in ancient China, Shi said.

Erlang Shen, one of the deities in Chinese mythology"s Creation of the Gods, had a celestial dog of the same breed serving as an aide. In the Ten Prized Dog Album, Qing Emperor Kangxi’s helpful hunting partner, the palace dog, is depicted with a superior and noble demeanor, a leisurely state, he said.

Jeff Dayu Shi"s Greetings of the Hound mug comes in two styles, one in black and the other in white, to usher in the Chinese Year of the Dog. [Huang Zhiling/chinadaily.com.cn]

The Greetings of the Hound mug comes in two styles. One is black, unglazed porcelain and the other is made of glazed, bright white porcelain.