Explainer: Everything You Need to Know About the Year of the Rabbit

By That's, January 18, 2023

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The Explainer is where we explain an aspect of Chinese life. Simple. So now you know.

There are many legends as to how the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac came to be chosen. Most go something like this.

The ancient Jade Emperor called a meeting of all the animals to decide who would be honored with the assignment of a zodiac year. He waited on the banks of a river and decided that he would award the years to the animals in the order they managed to make it across. 


Jade Emperor via Wikimedia

Some animals used their natural abilities, such as the ox and tiger who swam and the dragon who flew.

Legend has it that the pig was the last animal to arrive because he stopped to eat during the journey. This explains why the pig is the last animal in the Chinese zodiac. 

As for the rabbit, she hopped from stone to stone.

It is said that those born in the Year of the Rabbit are witty, quick-minded and ingenious. They are also modest and pleasant people to be around because they are not easily irritated and they avoid arguments as much as possible.

Birth Years

2023, 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927

Rabbits make excellent…

Artists, musicians and writers because of their empathy and sensitive, artistic feelings.

Most compatible with…

Oxes, tigers and snakes

Mortal enemies with…

Dogs, horses, goats, and pigs

Rabbit idioms

守株待兔 (shou zhu dai tu), keep watch at the tree stump, waiting for a rabbit. 

This idiom means 'don't wait for things to land in your lap, go and make them happen.' It comes from a story about a lazy farmer who was sleeping in a field when a rabbit ran into his tree and killed itself. The farmer spent the rest of his days waiting for the next free rabbit, but never got one. 

犬兔之争 (quan tu zhi zheng), a race between a rabbit and a dog. 

This idiom literally is used to refer to a pointless competition.

兔走乌飞 (tu zou wu fei), the rabbit is leaving and the crow is flying. In English, we would say 'time flies.'

兔起鹘落  (tu qi hu luo), ascending rabbit, descending falcon. This idiom is used to refer to swift movements.

[Cover image via Flickr]

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