Exhibition Features Image of Cats for 2023 Lunar New Year

While most of Asia celebrates the Year of the Rabbit, Vietnam celebrates the Year of the Cat.

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At the exhibition. Photo: Tran Giang Nam
At the exhibition. Photo: Tran Giang Nam

An exhibition featuring paintings and installations on the image of the cat, the zodiac animal for the upcoming Lunar New Year, is taking place at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi, VNA reported.

The exhibition drew the participation of various famous painters and artists who have made great contributions to Vietnamese fine arts.

The exhibits, which were created using diverse materials including lacquers, oil paints, acrylics and coloured wood carvings, highlighted interesting and unique perspectives about this animal which is very close to humans.

The main theme of the exhibition is the Cat – the zodiac animal of the Lunar New Year. Cat is the fourth sign in Vietnamese Zodiac, taking place of the Rabbit in Chinese Zodiac.

In addition, the exhibition also has many works about spring – the season of reproduction and blooming flowers. This is an endless source of inspiration for the artists.

The event, will run until January 10, marked the hard work and serious creative journey of outstanding painters of contemporary fine arts to produce unique artworks as a gift to art lovers ahead of New Year 2023.

At the exhibition. Photo: Binh Nhi
Cat – the symbolic animal of 2023 – is interested by many artists and becomes the subject of artworks. Photo: Binh Nhi

While most of Asia celebrates the Year of the Rabbit, Vietnam celebrates the Year of the Cat.

How the Cat replaced the Rabbit in Vietnam’s Chinese zodiac remains unclear. In the Chinese and Vietnamese zodiacs, there are 12 animals, and the fourth animal is the Rabbit; in the Vietnamese zodiac, the 4th position is occupied by the Cat, according to thechinesezodiac.org.

In China, the story says that the Buddha invited the animals to a river race, and the first 12 to reach the shore will appear in the Chinese zodiac.

The cat and the rat, who were close friends at the time, decided to walk on the back of a bowl because they couldn’t swim. But as they approached the finish line, the rat pushed the cat into the water – and so the rat won, making the cat and the rat enemies ever since.

In Vietnam, the story is different. Emperor Jade, a Taoist god, organized the race. During the race, the cat is the one who wins his place among the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.

There have been various explanations of why the Vietnamese have the cat instead of the rabbit as a zodiac animal. The most common explanation is that the ancient word for “rabbit” (mão) sounds like “cat” (māo).

Another explanation would be that most Vietnamese people are farmers, and rabbit has nothing to do with Vietnamese farmers. Instead, the cat has always been an excellent friend to farmers, trying to kill the rats that threaten their crops.

The Vietnamese zodiac follows the Chinese zodiac for much of the remaining 11 years of the lunar cycle, although Vietnam replaces the ox with a water buffalo.

Artwork by artist Bui Thanh Thuy.
Artwork by artist Bui Thanh Thuy. Photo courtersy of organizers
The work of painter Le Minh Tri.
The work of artist Le Minh Tri. Source: Vietnamnet

The Cat is known for its grace, intelligence, and ability to adapt to new situations. It is also known for its charm and diplomacy and is thought to be a symbol of sensitivity and a desire for beauty and harmony. Despite its delicate appearance, the Cat is quite strong and tough and is known for its sneakiness and ability to dissimulate.

Those born in the Year of the Cat are often admired for their impeccable public image and desire to be loved and have many friends. However, they can also be quite two-faced and will not hesitate to lash out and attack if they feel criticized or exposed. Despite this, they are known for their ability to bounce back from difficult situations and always land on their feet.

Meanwhile, the rabbit is historically known as the gentlest and most tender of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, the traditional classification scheme based on the lunar calendar that assigns an animal and its attributes to each year, according to Japan Times.

In Chinese culture, the rabbit is the luckiest of the 12 animals of the zodiac and symbolizes energy, elegance and beauty, while Korean folk tales present the rabbit as quiet, clever, fertile and prosperous.

The Year of the Rabbit is predicted to be a year of hope, largely because the rabbit is associated with peace, prosperity and longevity.

The 2023 Lunar New Year’s Day falls on January 22.

Hannah Nguyen