While China and others in Asia ring in the lunar Year of the Rabbit this week, Vietnamese are purring about the coming Year of the Cat.
Exactly why and when Vietnam dumped the rabbit and adopted the cat for its version of the 12-sign lunar zodiac taken from China is up for debate and may have been partly the result of a complex translation error.
These days, though, the idea of hopping back to the rabbit would be highly disagreeable to most Vietnamese.
Besides the cat, the other 11 zodiac signs are ox, tiger, dragon, snake, rat, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Each is believed to bring its own peculiar and unique characteristics to the cycle.
“It’s appropriate that the Vietnamese swapped the cat into the calendar in place of the rabbit. Rabbits are a kind of rodent and the rat is also a rodent. The animals (in the zodiac) should be different,” said pet enthusiast Nguyen Bao Sinh.
The cat helps offset the dog, its natural enemy, said Sinh, who runs a pet hotel in Hanoi that charges 500,000 dong a night per animal for a stay.
“This expresses a balance of yin and yang in the cosmos that is more complete, that better unifies the contradictions, and so it is richer and better to have the cat,” he added.
In China, the rabbit is thought one of the happiest signs, with people born in that year renowned for their kindness, reliability and loyalty, though with an air of mystery.
In Vietnam, rabbits are considered food. Cats also appear on the occasional menu as “little tigers“, although the practice of eating them is technically banned.
by Arthur Furrowfield + remora