Year of the Cat - A very Asian Zodiac sign.

There exists a fable that the Cat was considered to be one of the zodiacs in the Chinese calendar system.


As the story goes, the Jade Emperor invited all living things to participate in a race across the river so that he could decide and place one after another to mark time. Knowing his disadvantage given his small size and a poor swimming abilities, the Rat look towards the Ox. The intelligent Rat first convinced the unsuspecting Ox that their collaboration would certainly assure them of the finishing line first. Taking advantage of its sheer strength, the Rat rode on the back of the Ox and upon the finishing line, jumped ahead of the Ox to take the first place.

Another twist to the story was how the Rat actually manipulated to leave the Cat out of place in consideration of his own chances in the twelve animal zodiac system. As the best of companions, both the Rat and the Cat were equally excited and determined to win the race. Knowing his limitations, the Cat knew he must rest to conserve the energies to put up a good fight against the formidable lineup for the race. The Cat entrusted the Rat to wake him up in time for the race while he went into a restful sleep. When the time arrives, the Rat conveniently left the Cat napping while he sneaked himself out for the competition.


Ever since, the image of the Rat is one of a smart but sneaky and manipulating animal. The relationship will forever be immortalized as the Cat chasing the Rat for an unsettled score.


In reality, do you know that the symbolism of the Cat actually exists in a calendar system ?


Vietnam, given its proximity and influence with China and its culture, adopts a similar lunisolar calendar system.


While most of the calaulation, system, methodology and rebuses relating to Chinese culture and heritage remain intact, the phonetics crisscrossing between the two languages can be blurred. One such interpretation seems to touch upon the fourth zodiac sign of the Rabbit in the Chinese calendar.


The Chinese character for Rabbit [兔] is 'tu' (in the fourth consonant) but the classical or archaic Chinese word for it is [卯] 'mao' (in the third consonant), which is commonly used to describe the Rabbit in metaphysics terms.


As with some other Chinese characters, the Vietnamese relied upon phonetics to express complicating words into hybrids or compounds of phono-semantic versions for daily use.


It is believed that the character [卯] used to describe the Rabbit was then compared to a similar sounding character of the Cat or 'Con Meo' (the 'Meo' suspiciously sounding like a 'meow' of a Cat) in Vietnamese.


Since the beginning of the Vietnamese zodiac system, the fourth animal symbol of the Rabbit in the Chinese system is the equivalent of the Cat in Vietnam.