The Rabbit (兔) is the fourth of the 12-year cycle of animals in the Chinese zodiac. The Year of the Rabbit is associated with the Earthly Branch (地支) symbol of Mao (卯). The Lunar New Year Day of the Year of Gui Mao (癸卯年) falls on Sunday 22 January 2023.
The Chinese lunar calendar is made up of ten Heavenly Stems (天干) and 12 Earthly Branches (地支) as follows:
天干 (Ten Heavenly Stems) :
地支 (Twelve Earthly Branches) :
十二生肖 (12-year cycle in the Chinese zodiac)：
rat ox tigerrabbitdragon snake horse goat monkey rooster dog pig
Recent years of the Rabbit are: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023.
Chinese Zodiac years are based on the Chinese lunar calendar. Interested people born in January or February can check the date of the Chinese New Year to confirm their birth sign, for example at the following site:
The rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace and prosperity in Chinese culture.
People born in a year of the Rabbit are believed to be gentle, vigilant, witty, quick-minded, and ingenious. This is just a folklore and should not be taken seriously.
Sculptures, ceramics and ornaments of rabbits throughout history
Moon Palace Story (月宫故事)
Houyi’s wife Chang’e stole the medicine of immortality and flew to the moon to become a fairy. (後羿妻嫦娥偷吃不死之藥，奔月成仙)
In the middle of the moon, the Jade Rabbit pounded the elixir.( 月中玉兔搗不老藥)
Moon Toad (月亮蟾蜍)
(Wu Gang chopped the osmanthus tree 吳剛砍桂)
The Twelve Old Summer Palace bronze heads are a collection of bronze fountainheads in the shape of the Chinese zodiac animals that was part of a water clock fountain in front of the Haiyantang (海晏堂) building of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. The statues would spout out water from their mouths to tell the time.
The bronze-cast heads of the stone statues were among the treasures looted during the destruction of the Old Summer Palace (圓明園) by British and French expeditionary forces (英法聯軍之役) in 1860 during the Second Opium War (1856-1860). In 2009, the rabbit head (along with the rat head) were put to auction at Christie’s Auction House at Paris with a highest bid of Euro28M. Eventually, Francois-Henri Pinault, owner of Christie’s, acquired the heads at an undisclosed price and returned them to China in 2013.
Chinese Paintings of Rabbits throughout history
There are a lot of fake paintings of Qi around us. Only experts can distinguish the authentic ones from the fake ones.
A rabbit is a very popular animal on Chinese art, appearing as a small carved jade or porcelain animal as well as jewellery design, small boxes, and porcelain articles.
Rabbits are tame and lovely animals. Despite rabbits are being preyed on by predators like hawks and dogs in many Chinese paintings, the rabbit has special importance as a symbol associated with immortality and hence longevity. According to old legend, a ‘moon hare’ (yuetu 月兔) lives on the Moon together with the Goddess of the Moon, Chang’e (嫦娥), preparing an elixir of immortality from the bark of the osmanthus tree with a mortar and jade pestle.
One female rabbit can give birth to up to seven litters per year, each with up to 12 babies. Therefore, the rabbit also symbolizes fertility and prosperity in traditional Chinese culture.
Dunhuang Maogao Cave Sui-407 Cave (敦煌莫高窟 隋-407窟)
Sui Dynasty – 581-618 CE
The three ‘rotating’ rabbits on the ceiling of Cave 407 may depict a sense of immortality and longevity.
I would like to thank Professor P. Lam for his consistent guidance and advice throughout the years.
中国剪纸 Paper Cut in China 十二生肖 The twelve symbol animals 漢坤東方出品