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Three-rabbit image links civilizations via Silk Road

Xinhua | January 22, 2023

A rabbit-shaped decoration stands in a restaurant in Istanbul, Türkiye on Jan. 17, 2023, ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year, the year of the Rabbit. (Xinhua photo)


Besides the three-rabbit image, other rabbit symbols also show cultural exchanges between China and other civilizations. The upcoming Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese lunar calendar reminds Turks of one of their ancient rituals.

The 12-animal Turkish Calendar, derivated from the Chinese lunar calendar, also included the Year of the Rabbit during the ancient times when Turkish tribes widely practiced Shamanism, a religious practice.

Sergen Cirkin, a Turkish archaeologist, told Xinhua that some archaeological findings indicate that the 12-animal calendar was used about 3,200 years ago among Turkish tribes, such as the Scythians.

Turks, under Shamanism, perceived rabbits as spiritual animals acting as messengers and attributed rabbits a distinct value in stopping wars, struggling against evils, hunting and even giving birth to a child, he said.

"Furthermore, we find that the rabbit was a potent divine symbol for Turkish Shamanism, especially when giving birth. We see that an object made of rabbit fur was hanging in a tent where the birth takes place," Cirkin added.

He also noted that the rabbit symbolizes compassion and timidity.

The 12-animal calendar indicated how Chinese and Turkish cultures have intertwined since before Christ, Ahmet Tasagil, head of the History Department at the Istanbul-based Yeditepe University, told Xinhua.

"Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of a unified China reigned during 221 BC-210 BC, had a close relationship with the Northern tribes, who we call the Turkish tribes," explained Tasagil.

"As a result of such close ties, Turks adopted the version of the lunar calendar and called it the 12-animal Turkish calendar," he said.


Observing the Chinese lunar New Year of Rabbit which begins on Sunday, Tarek Tawfik, vice president of the International Association of Egyptologists, said that rabbit, the luckiest of the 12 animals of the zodiac in Chinese culture, is also an important and special sign of the hieroglyphic in the ancient Egyptian language.

The Egyptology expert explained that wild rabbit resembles the verb Un or Wenin which means to be, to happen, and to continue, noting that Egyptians drew wild rabbits on their tombs because they admire its cleverness, speed, intelligent big eyes, and cautious long ears.

The professor added that the sign of rabbit was also associated with Osiris, one of Egypt's most important deities, who was the god of the underworld and symbolized death, resurrection, and the cycle of Nile floods that Egypt relied on for agricultural fertility.

People gather at a bakery which is decorated for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, the year of the Rabbit, in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 18, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Dongzhen)

Un-nefer, or Wenenu means that Osiris will appear after the resurrection in beautiful shape, Tawfik, also former director general of the Grand Egyptian Museum, added.

Egyptians also see rabbits as an animal that brings luck and good future. After buying a car for taxi, Mahmoud Samy, a 55-year-old doorman of a residential building in Maadi district in south-eastern Cairo, hung a necklace of plastic rabbit legs in his car to bring luck and good income.

"Rabbits are famous for their fertility and reproduction, which signifies more money and prevent accidents," he said.

Tawfik explained that both Egyptian and Chinese people believe in speediness and reproduction of rabbits as old civilizations, especially those founded on banks of big rivers like the River Nile in Egypt and the Yangtze River in China, are connected with similarity of nature, and trade relations, even with long distances, brought mutual interaction and influence.

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