Zodiac dog, pig go missing for Chinese New Year

The cotton T-shirt sold by Giant Hypermarket in Malaysia shows 10 of the 12 animals of the zodiac around a platter of yu sheng. The dog and pig were represented by Chinese characters instead.
The cotton T-shirt sold by Giant Hypermarket in Malaysia shows 10 of the 12 animals of the zodiac around a platter of yu sheng. The dog and pig were represented by Chinese characters instead.ST PHOTO: TRINNA LEONG

Chinese across the world are prepping to usher in the Year of the Dog next month, but Malaysian Chinese are seeing red over zodiac animals missing from a festive T-shirt.

A photo of the T-shirt went viral on social media last week because its image of cartoon animals perched round a platter of yu sheng - a celebratory dish - was missing the dog and the pig, animals considered unclean among the country's Muslim majority.

"It's getting overboard and rather childish. It's just a cartoon, not an actual animal," said Ms Shephanie Kuan, 23, a college student born in the Year of the Pig.

While the other 10 animals of the zodiac like the rooster and rabbit were represented by cute drawings, the dog and the pig had to settle for Chinese characters "xu" and "hai" respectively.

The cotton T-shirt was sold by Giant Hypermarket, which has more than 110 stores across Malaysia.

GCH Retail, the parent company of Giant Hypermarket, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Malaysian Chinese community has responded with a mixture of irritation, bemusement and indifference.

Those who are more irked have called for a boycott of the T-shirt, saying it was insensitive. But many are happy to let sleeping dogs lie.

"I think the shirt was made for Muslims looking to feel the Chinese New Year vibe," said Ms Eileen Tan, 23, a computer programmer.

"I have no problem with it as long as they feel happy."

Meanwhile, advertising creative head Dann Toh, 35, said: "Not offended. I just plan to buy shirts with dogs and wear them for the rest of the year to balance out the lack of representation."

• Additional reporting by Shannon Teoh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2018, with the headline 'Zodiac dog, pig go missing for Chinese New Year'. Print Edition | Subscribe