The year of the rabbit kicks off today, but auspicious rabbit-themed books, ornaments, costumes, and other items have been on sale for months. Eco Publishing Co., Ltd. has also published a poster book titled Spending the Rabbit Year in Grandeur 《大過兔年》.
The preface of the book says that, “Rabbits in the wild are very agile. They have long ears, and so have acute hearing, they are nimble, with quick reactions, and they are fast runners. These features make rabbits a perfect symbol for the increasing speed of fiber-optics in the new year.”
The Shuowen Jiezi《說文解字》, the earliest Chinese character dictionary, dating from the East Han period in the early 2nd century, explains the word “yi” (逸), the word for “rapid,” in terms of one of its radicals, rabbit, “tu” (兔). In other words, people felt even back in ancient times that the most prominent characteristic of rabbits was their speed. Modern science has shown that a rabbit can run at speeds of 70km per hour, at least as fast as a horse. The Chinese simile “as fast as a rabbit in flight” (動如脫兔) is clearly based in fact.
Rabbits were domesticated by humans later than other animals, such as horses, oxen, goats, fowl, dogs, and pigs. Nevertheless, given their mild and friendly disposition, the rabbit has been elevated to the status of an auspicious animal.
The Lantern Festival, which begins on Jan. 17 this year, will feature a masterpiece lantern titled “Lucky Jade Rabbit” (玉兔呈祥). The jade rabbit is one of the earliest objects of worship celebrated during the Mid-Autumn Festival, going back to ancient times, but it was later replaced by the Chinese legend of Chang-e (嫦娥), the girl in the moon. According to folklore, Chang-e then also became a goddess of childbirth, perhaps thanks to the connection with the rabbit, as rabbits are known for being prodigiously fertile.
The book features a total of 12 posters designed to bring good luck and happiness. They include woodblock prints of “The Door God Shen Shu” and “The Door God Yu Lyu,” paper cuttings of “Best Wishes for a Propitious New Year” and “Auspicious Bunny,” posters of “Chronology of the Rabbit in Chinese Cultural History” and “One Hundred Lucky Rabbits,” a folk art painting entitled “Happy Rabbits Ushering in the Year of the Rabbit,” another group of paper floral cuttings called “Ten Flower-Clusters,” and woodblock prints of “Harmony Brings Fortune” and “He He Twin Deities.” Then there are some examples of stylized Chinese calligraphy called “Artistic Renditions of Chinese Characters in the Folk Art Tradition,” and paper cuttings entitled “Four Flower-Cluster,” an indigo dye print illustrating “The Deer and Crane Announcing the Coming of Spring,” and clay figurines of “The Rabbit Lord.”
— Written and compiled by Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times
今年一月十七日舉辦的「台灣燈會」主燈「玉兔呈祥」中的玉兔，根據《大過兔年》的描述，玉兔是中秋的祭祀對象之一，最早的拜月即是拜玉兔；後來誕生了嫦娥奔月的故事，嫦娥取代玉兔的地位，月中女神還成為民間的生育之神，這又得歸功於兔子 — 牠的生育力和老鼠一樣無與倫比。