By Yoyo Chiang 6:27 pm PST

In the famous Chinese classical poem “The Ballad of Mulan,” there is a line describing rabbits. “The male rabbits’ feet flutter, female rabbits’ eyes blur; two rabbits run on the ground, how to tell if one’s male or female?” Many people have overthought the literal meaning of this quote, trying to explain the characteristics of male and female rabbits through the phrase itself. Others, taking a more literary perspective, consider these two lines to be an example of a literary device called “intertextuality.” These different opinions and arguments only seem to emphasize the unique characteristics of rabbits and what we as humans can learn from them. . While stepping into the Year of the Rabbit, let us have a talk about “Rabbits.”

In traditional Chinese culture, rabbits have always been known for their agility and cleverness. For example, in praise of rabbits for their agility, the term “Cunning rabbit has Three caves” was invented. Since rabbits look quiet but are actually difficult to catch, most people need the help of hounds or even foxes to hunt them, which therefore created  the idiom of, “Rabbit dies, dog cooked,” or, “Rabbit dies, fox pities.” The story of a rabbit accidentally hitting a tree and getting caught only once in a few thousand years has become the origin of “To wait for hares”.

In China, the most well-known rabbit is the Jade Rabbit, who accompanies Chang’e in the Moon Palace while pounding medicine. The Jade Rabbit is not only a perfect representation of ancient Chinese people’s imagination of astronomy, but also the auspicious animal of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The cute , hardworking appearance of this rabbit is deeply rooted in the hearts of the Chinese people, and has become popular and well-loved.

Rabbits also play an important role in western culture. One of the most famous rabbits is the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, a character who leads the audience through the entire marvelous story. Another famous rabbit is in “Aesop’s Fables.” This rabbit had a race with the tortoise, and famously lost to the tortoise. Finally, Peter Rabbit and the cartoon rabbit Bugs Bunny are also rabbits that live within many people’s memories of their childhood.

Of course, rabbits have also become pets at home. Since they are easy to feed (carrots can be found anywhere in the market), rather quiet, and do not require a large space to move within, they are suitable for both urban and rural homes. Rabbits are docile in nature, so anyone can pick them up and touch their fluffy soft fur. They are even sometimes used by parents to teach their children life lessons around gentleness and responsibility.

Thus, rabbits play a very important role in both Eastern and Western cultural heritage. In this Year of the Rabbit, let us take a good look back at these “Rabbit” friends that appeared in our childhood, and hope to have an elevated and prosperous year.

Edited by Elena Potek