The Japanese Chin got their origin many years ago, some believe as far back as the year 732. Through all this time, the importance of the Japanese Chin to Japan has not changed, as they are still the dog owned by Japanese royalty. Originally called the Japanese Spaniel, this toy dog actually is said to have gotten its start in Korea and then later in Japan. Back to the 16th century, the Japanese Chin was revered in Japan. The women in Japan carried them in baskets lined in silk. Killing a Chin was the same in Japan as killing a human and was treated and punishable in the same way.
From the time they were developed in China, they were a dog that represented royalty. The Chin was bred with two purposes in mind - one being to have a dog to accompany the Imperial Palace ladies and the other to keep the laps of the Chinese aristocracy warm. This dog could not be given or owned by just anyone. They were reserved for the nobility and given as gifts of appreciation to foreigners or diplomats that did service to Japan. In 1853, Commodore Perry traveled to Japan to open them to world trade. He was given several Japanese Chins as a gift. He, in turn, gave a pair to Queen Victoria. This made the Chin popular in England. When Perry gave the President a Chin, this brought them to the United States. After this, the Japanese Chin became very sought after dogs.
The quantity of the Japanese Chin was drastically cut during the time of World War I and from earthquakes that eliminated many breeders. The only reason why the Chin managed to survive is that many owners hid their dog, even risking going to prison for this.
In 1964, Japan gave the Japanese Chin the honor of being one of their national symbols. The Chin has also appeared on many Japanese postage stamps.
Every noble house that owned a Japanese Chin bred it, with each breeding to their individual desired standard. This is the reason there were many different sizes and types of the Chin. In their quest to get a Chin with the characteristics of a cat, they inbred their Chin with a cat. Their breeding attempt was successful with the result being a dog that could climb and jump, used its front paws frequently and was exceptionally clean. This dog was so special to them that they didn't even consider it a dog, but rather their special creation.
Helping to save the breed in Japan can be accredited to Catherine Cross, who helped bring many Japanese Chin back to Japan after WWII, since so many were killed in the war. Today, they are considered extremely rare and sacred in Japan.