Year of the Cat?

Wait a minute. It’s the Year of the Cat? No way, it’s the Year of the Rabbit now, isn’t it, there is no such thing as Year of the Cat. Oh yes there is! Not in China, but in Vietnam. I was also surprised to discover that when I was scrolling through Facebook. Both follow the Lunar Year and celebrate New Years on the same day, so what’s the deal about the cat? We’ll soon find out! Meanwhile, let the two fight it out, we say. And so this doodle I made, only this time the two peacefully make up in the end!

So What is the Deal?

There seems to be a few explanations as to why the Vietnamese opt for the cat rather than the rabbit:

  1. The word for cat in Chinese is “mao” which was misinterpreted as “meo” which means cat in Vietnamese.
  2. While the Chinese originally lived in the savannas and got close to rabbits, the Vietnamese lived in lowland areas and preferred cats.
  3. Rice paddies are prevalent in Vietnam and with all the threat of rats, cats will hunt them down and hence are a preferred animal. The Chinese, on the other hand, originally lived nomadic lives in the savannas and thus as stated above closely associated with rabbits more.
  4. The Vietnamese don’t want to observe two years with a similar animal, perceiving the mouse and the rabbit as being closely linked.
  5. According to a legend about a race that determined the roster for the 12 animals for the zodiac, the cat and rat were competing. The Chinese version was that the rat pushed the cat into the water which led to the cat’s loss. The rabbit behind however caught up and was eventually able to finish 4th place. However, the Vietnamese version has no rabbit from the start anyhow, and the cat was able to swim and managed to finish the race.

And here is my pencil sketch on which I began tracing over with a black marker. Although only two of the five explanations are illustrated, I wanted to focus on the cuteness of the cat and bunny co-existing. Look how cute they look together!

“Let’s put our differences aside and make up!”, suggested the rabbit. “Great idea! Happy New Years”. And thus the rabbit and the cat wish us Happy Lunar Year in their native languages. Now I hope I’ve written it correctly since I directly googled the translation!

A Little Coloring

I was hesitating to paint the drawing but decided to take the plunge. Although I actually prefer the non-colored version, I also wanted to emphasize the captions more and make the cat and bunny pop out. No regrets. Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolors were chosen for this, and I am especially loving the gold. Glad I experimented with it! I left the background alone and didn’t paint it, but for the bunny and cat’s faces in the middle, I went for white gold to add some shimmer. So here we have it, bunny and kitty being friends again!

A simple doodle with basic painting but I wanted to illustrate this interesting story! Always wonderful to learn about different cultures in the world and how things are done differently. And I wish you all a happy and prosperous Year of the Rabbit and Year of the Cat, wherever you are!

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