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On the 22nd of January, 2023, the Chinese Lunar calendar will welcome the year of the rabbit.


Zodiacs are a key constituent of traditional Chinese culture, for they are mascots of the Spring Festival and symbolic of Chinese New Year culture. The rabbit, which is cute and lively, denotes auspiciousness and vitality. The Song Dynasty creation “illustrations of Auspicious Omens” (Ruiyingtu) depicts that“red rabbits symbolize major auspiciousness, and white rabbits general auspiciousness”.


If the dragon and phoenix have traditionally represented the nobility in China, rabbits are a mascot for luck and fortune among the everyday people. Rabbit imageries are almost ubiquitous, appearing on calligraphic paintings, architectural patterns, fashion and attire, children's toys, daily utensils and even cute rabbit seals…


This mirror depicts a pattern of an ethereal Chang'e, the Moon Goddess, holding the two characters 大吉(daji, meaning “big luck”) and accompanying a rabbit on top of the moon. The folk legend “Chang'e flying to the moon” has closely bound Chang'e, the jade rabbit and the moon together.


The Chinese people have built on such legends, integrating rabbit images into artworks, personifying rabbits and even deifying them. The Lord Rabbit (Tu'er Ye) is a popular deity who was believed to first appear as a toy when people offered sacrifices to the moon god in hope of curing disease and removing disasters. The Lord Rabbit was depicted as a martial figure which became very popular with children.


In ancient times, rabbits were believed to embody six virtues: agility, diligence, courage, wisdom, benevolence and harmony. Even today, pet rabbits are a household favorite due to their cute appearance and quiet personality. In addition, foreign films, animations and toys have been increasingly embraced by Chinese families. The cautionary Aesop tale, The Hare and the Tortoise, have taught children everywhere that humility drives progress while arrogance brings defeat.


“Five, four, three, two, one – blast off!”


The Chang'e lunar probe carrying the Jade Rabbit rover into space is also a testament to the adoption of legendary Chinese folklore in the nation's lunar exploration mission, known as the “Chang'e program”. To date, China is the only country to have executed a non-impact touch down of a lunar probe on the moon's unchartered side that is not visible from Earth. The undying determination of our aerospace heroes have written a sequel to the Chang'e legend.


Rabbits are indeed ambassadors for auspiciousness, appearing in both legends and everyday life. There is a bunny in all of us, no matter our age.


With Chinese New Year around the corner, the Chinese people, as always, like to turn year's zodiac character into a pun by incorporating it into idioms. In the year of the rabbit (tu in Chinese), some auspicious idioms include “dazhanhongtu” (riding on the crest of success), “qiantusijin” (wishing one an auspicious future), “yangmeituqi” (holding one's head up high)… Have a try yourself?