The Profound Chinese Language (Episode 19): Rabbit (兔)

Da Qiong (Colossal Firmament)

PureInsight | February 6, 2006


Watch Online (5:33) | Download (7,881 KB)
Chinese version (English captions yet to be added)

An opening poem recitation by a group of children:

Rabbits have long ears swinging back and forth.
Despite their short front feet, they hop around happily.
Bunnies have cute little tails pointing straight up.
They are adorable with their white fur and red eyes.
Rabbits tolerate, yield to and rarely fight with other animals.
They come out at night to feast on green grass.
They are meek and peace-loving animals.
Legend has it that they help the Moon goddess, Chang-E (嫦娥), with pounding medicine in a mortar on the moon.

Yuan Yuan: This little bunny is so adorable. It is cuddly and it has very soft, fine fur. And it has red eyes. Do all the rabbits in the world have red eyes?

Ying Ying: Not necessarily. Look at this gray rabbit. It has pewter-colored eyes although I don't know why. Let's ask our teacher tomorrow.

Yuan Yuan: Why does a bunny have red eyes but a gray rabbit has dark gray eyes?

Teacher Wang: This is because gray rabbits have gray pigments in their eyes, which make their eyes appear to be gray. White bunnies have transparent eyeballs. It is the blood vessels in their eyes that make their eyes appear to be red.

Ying Ying: My mom has reminded me not to grab a rabbit by its ears. Why?

Teacher Wang: If you pull up a rabbit by its ears, you could snap its ear cartilages, which would cause its ears to fold and compromise its hearing. Rabbits are meek and good-natured. They yield to other animals. They even wait until night to come out and seek food. However, many animals would bully and hunt them for food, such as hawks and foxes. In order to reward their kindness, the gods gave each rabbit a pair of long, big ears that would rotate to the direction of the slightest sound. It acts as radar to detect the movement of its enemies. It is a protection mechanism for rabbits.

Ying Ying: Why is there an ancient legend that says that baby rabbits were born out of their mother's mouth?

Teacher Wang: This is an amusing misunderstanding. Hares mostly live in holes underground and only come out at night to munch on grass. Because people don't see them much, they develop misunderstandings about hares. Hares are actually skittish. Mother hares would move baby hares with their mouths at the sight of any danger. That's probably why some people thought baby hares were born out of their mother's mouth. The moral of the story is that we shouldn't jump to conclusions based on one single observation. Okay! It's time for Grandpa Brush Pen to explain the evolution of the Chinese character for rabbit for us.

Grandpa Brush Pen: There are very different variations for the character for rabbit in oracle-bone scriptures, but every variation contains a lot of details about the rabbit's structural characteristics, and includes the rabbit's head, body, feet and tail. The most prominent feature in the character is the large ear. The first two variations in oracle-bone scriptures include finer details of the rabbits' feet. Their front feet are shorter than their hind feet, which shows that rabbits are good hoppers. They also include a tiny tail pointing up. Let's look at the character for rabbit in bronze inscriptions next. It is a pictograph of a rabbit about to hop forward. The character for rabbit in Small Seal is evolved from both oracle-bone scriptures and bronze inscriptions. It shows an adorable pair of large ears. It also contains short fore feet, long hind legs and a tiny tail. In the modern standard form, the tail has become a dot. This is a necessary detail or the rabbit would appear to be tailless. Children, let's conclude today's class about rabbit! Bye-bye!

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