Ear We Go

Updated: 2011-02-11 11:48

By Liu Lu (China Daily European Weekly)

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Ear We Go 

Rabbit-themed products have been all the rage over Chinese New Year. Cultural experts say the Rabbit year is one of peace and understanding. Wang Zhangwen / for China Daily

China and the world set to embrace the merciful and peaceful year of the rabbit

When Spring Festival approached, 24-year-old Ou Jiahua could only see red. He wore red underwear, a red belt, a red scarf, a red bracelet and anything else red he could lay his hands on.

The Beijing interpreter is one of millions of Chinese welcoming his zodiac year of birth, the Year of the Rabbit, which is fourth in the traditional Chinese zodiac cycle of 12 animals.

"Red colored things may help me warn away bad luck and bring me a peaceful year," says Ou.

According to ancient Chinese almanacs, people born in the Year of the Rabbit must try their best not to offend Taisui, a mysterious power or celestial body that control one's fortune.

And one of the best ways to please Taisui is to wear read.

Lin Jifu, folklore professor at the Minzu University of China, says there is a special affection for red because to the Chinese, no color other than red can best represent joy, good luck and fortune.

According to tradition, the Year of the Rabbit is also a positive sign for peace and understanding. "No matter whether in China or in Europe, the rabbit is deemed as a lucky sign and a symbol of mercy," says Liu Kuili, honorary president of the China Folklore Society, who is also a researcher of ethnic studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

He says as the world has become more globalized, some time-honored traditions of certain cultures have gradually broken through the geographical constraints and developed into universal folk customs observed by people around the world.

"The worldwide celebration for the arrival of the Year of the Rabbit reflects people's common quest for a better life, despite their different religious beliefs, races and cultural backgrounds," Liu says.

He says the Chinese horoscope is one of China's greatest cultural heritages and each animal sign always has a special, positive symbolic meaning.

"The rabbit is perceived as a gentle, agile and peace-loving animal compared to the fearsome tiger, therefore 2011 will be a placid year and a very much welcomed year after the ferocious Year of the Tiger," he says.

But not only are rabbit people looking forward to their horoscope year, people across China and the world are celebrating the holiday in different ways.

In Germany, Berlin Central Station, the largest railway station in Europe, hung decorative red lanterns, and held a grand temple fair as well as set off fireworks to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

 Ear We Go

On Jan 17 in France, the national postal service provider officially launched a commemorative stamp, with the furry, long-eared animal as its star attraction.

It is the seventh consecutive year that France has issued Chinese New Year commemorative stamps, which are full of Chinese flavor and have become popular among world collectors.

In China, regardless of age and gender, people are in hot pursuit of bunny-themed souvenirs and decorations.

From the array of stuffed toys and clothing to accessories and food, the cute and fuzzy animal can be spotted everywhere.

This year's Chinese New Year frenzy has not only dramatically boosted sales of rabbit-themed goods it has also swelled the profits of pet retailers.

"The rabbit has replaced other traditional popular pets, such as dogs and cats, to become the most popular animal among people," says Liu Zelin, 32, a pet shop owner in Shanghai.

He says sales of live rabbits have been robust because people feel that having a rabbit in the home adds a festive mood and owning a rabbit in 2011 will make them especially lucky.

According to Liu, rabbit sales began flourishing almost three months before the festival and he was selling 15 young rabbits a day, with prices varying between 200-300 yuan per kitten.

He says the sales volume was significantly higher than for dogs or cats.

There was no Spring Festival holidays for Liu because he says he has been too busy boosting his stock and expects another round of rabbit sales when people return to Shanghai from their hometowns after the week-long vocation.

Interestingly, Liu sells European rabbits imported from Germany and Norway.

"According to Chinese astrology, 2011 is a rare 'Golden Rabbit Year', which is auspicious for wealth," says Liu in a joyful tone. "The prediction is true, because rabbits have already brought me a modest fortune."

Ambitious businessmen are also riding the popularity wave of the Year of the Rabbit and are seeking their fortunes in 2011.

People from all the different zodiac signs may consult feng shui masters in an effort to predict their future for the upcoming year. According to believers, misfortunes can be possibly avoided if they are better prepared.

Experts say this belief in the traditional zodiac system reflects people's fear of uncertainties in the future and their wishful hopes for better lives. "We cannot simply take it as a blind faith in superstition because it reveals modern people's strong attachment to tradition and Chinese people's long-held inner desire for peace and harmony," says Lin.

He says with such fast social development, people today are facing enormous pressure from many aspects of life.

Therefore, it is understandable that modern people want to seek help from their cultural roots in search of spiritual comfort and problem-solving shortcuts in an effort to release inner pressure.

"Just like the popular horoscope culture in the West, as long as people are not addicted to the Chinese zodiac sign culture or take it too seriously, it serves as psychologial therapy that helps modern people gain a sense of security," says Lin.

And move over Bugs Bunny, the rabbit will also play a role in the domestic children's film market.

According to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, six rabbit-themed animation films will hit screen later this year.

The producers are confident of reaping high box-office receipts.


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