Rabbit or cat: Why the Chinese lunar calendar’s animals pop up across the region

Reflections on the cross-cultural influences that have shaped celebrations and the 12-year cycle of animals as we leap into the Year of the Rabbit.

Some of the beliefs – or superstitions – about the Chinese zodiac signs still hold sway across the community. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
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As we count down to the new lunar year, Chinese families all over the world will be busy spring-cleaning and preparing for the feasting and extended family gatherings over the festive period. For some, the Year of the Tiger is best forgotten, with depressing global developments and a lingering shadow of the pandemic.

Whether one puts any store by astrological signs, it is fascinating to register that a few countries in East Asia – from Thailand and Vietnam to Japan and Korea – also observe the Chinese zodiac signs as part of their cultural beliefs and mark the passing of time in 12-year cycles. How did this come to be?

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