Water buffalo seen in southern China and on Taiwan are generally grey in color and rather tame. The color of the beast is significant.
The water buffalo is the only domesticated plowing animal in rice fields in Asia from China to Taiwan to Vietnam. The animal symbolizes family wealth, economic and financial stability of the family. The water buffalo is also an herbivore, a “vegetarian” so to speak, and as a productive “member” of the farm family, it is not slaughtered for meat. A Chinese farm family may even be “vegetarians” or may eat only pork, chicken, duck, fish, but not beef. The household is usually emotionally attached to the family water buffalo. In stories of reincarnation, the family water buffalo is often the reincarnation of a debtor of the family in a previous life. The debtor is reincarnated to repay his debt to the family in the next life as a humble hard working beast, and its work in the rice fields is repayment of the debt in the previous life to the family.