The history of the Japanese Chin is not completely agreed upon. The breed may have actually originated in China as small dogs often accompanied travelers and traders along the silk road. The Japanese Chin Club of America states that the European Continental toy spaniel was crossed with the Chinese Chin dog or "Imperial Chin" to produce what was would become the Japanese Chin. The club also suggests that the Pekingese likely was bred out from the Japanese Chin dogs.
It is known that some were kept and bred at Buddhist monasteries as early as 528 A.D. Eventually, as many toy breeds do, they found their way into palaces of royalty and nobility and were taken out of reach of the peasants. The breed graced the lap of every aristocratic lady and, rather ironically, these elites worshiped and doted on these little dogs-- they even had their own servants.
The end of Japan's isolationism in the mid 1850's marked the introduction of the breed to the west. Three pairs were given to Commodore Perry as gifts, although only one pair survived. Nevertheless, the gates of Japan were open and the breed caught the eye of Queen Alexandra of Britain during the late 1800's. Popularity of the Chin skyrocketed in England and, therefore, throughout Europe.
In 1888, the first Chin, Jap, was recognized by the AKC as a Japanese Spaniel. The name remained until 1977 when it was renamed the Japanese Chin.