Why cat instead of rabbit? [Vietnamese]

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Pangu
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Why cat instead of rabbit? [Vietnamese]

Postby Pangu » 2014-02-27, 16:33

For those of you who don't know, in the Vietnamese zodiac, the fourth animal is the cat instead of the rabbit, which differs from the Chinese zodiac. However, the answer to why this is seems to be difficult to find. After searching online for a bit, I have found several "theories" but none of them seem convincing nor were they supported by any evidence:

1. Vietnamese "misheard" and confused 卯 mǎo (mão in Vietnamese) with 貓 māo (mèo in Vietnamese).

How is this even possible? Up until the late 1800's, Vietnamese, especially those who were in charge of such important things as the zodiac would have been fluent in classical Chinese and characters. Also the zodiac would've been introduced from China to Vietnam via written documents and not verbally. Lastly, the introduction of Chinese culture into Vietnam wasn't a one-time event. It was continuous for thousands of years. Had there been a mistake, someone would've noticed it soon.

2. The change from rabbit to cat was a recent event due to adoption of Quoc Ngu and lost of general knowledge of Chinese characters.

This is just as silly. This would've been a major change and it wouldn't have been adopted so quickly and universally in Vietnam without someone making a fuss. Also there would've been countless documents that needed to be changed and/or destroyed (and older documents to be faked) to support this change.

3. Vietnam didn't have rabbits when the Chinese zodiac was introduced.

Are you kidding!? First of all, what evidence is there to support there were no rabbits in Vietnam around 2000 years ago when the Chinese zodiac would've been first introduced? Also, the last time I checked there were no dragons in Vietnam too yet they seemed to have no trouble accepting it.

So what do you think, or more importantly, what do you know?

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Re: Why cat instead of rabbit?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-02-27, 16:55

Pangu wrote:So what do you think, or more importantly, what do you know?

Isn't the current theory that the zodiac was introduced to China from Southeast Asia? The terms for the earth branches are opaque in Chinese (i.e. they have no meaning apart from their use in the zodiac) but supposedly have plausible Proto-Tai etymologies.

If that's the case, then perhaps the question should be, "Why did the Chinese substitute rabbits for cats?"
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Re: Why cat instead of rabbit?

Postby Pangu » 2014-02-27, 17:19

linguoboy wrote:
Pangu wrote:So what do you think, or more importantly, what do you know?

Isn't the current theory that the zodiac was introduced to China from Southeast Asia? The terms for the earth branches are opaque in Chinese (i.e. they have no meaning apart from their use in the zodiac) but supposedly have plausible Proto-Tai etymologies.

If that's the case, then perhaps the question should be, "Why did the Chinese substitute rabbits for cats?"

I guess we can add another "theory" on the board:

Chinese zodiac was actually a Vietnamese invention... lol :)

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Re: Why cat instead of rabbit?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-02-27, 17:24

Pangu wrote:Chinese zodiac was actually a Vietnamese invention... lol :)

Pre-Vietnamese, technically.

It was the Sinologist Jerry Norman who first proposed this hypothesis. Here's a more recent critical updating of it listing the corresponding terms in the major SE Asian languages: http://www.jseals.org/seals23/ferlus2013sexigesimald.pdf
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Re: Why cat instead of rabbit?

Postby korn » 2014-02-28, 19:16

Hello linguoboy,

You may not care, but I like your posts! And I wanted to say that - in contrary to other people in this thread - you're using your knowledge to actually help other people and not belittle them.

Hope you'll stay around longer.

Bye
Please correct all my mistakes, no matter how trivial they may seem to you, also, please help me to improve my phrases. Thank you in advance!
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Re: Why cat instead of rabbit?

Postby OldBoring » 2014-03-03, 12:30

But that paper doesn't seem to explain how cat became hare, or how hare became cat.
It's probably irrelevant, but it should be noted that in Chinese the buffalo 水牛 is only considered a particular kind of cow 牛.

I don't have papers to quote, but can only tell Chinese folk legends. My father's version said that originally the zodiacal animals were 13, and there was a race in the early morning to establish the animal orders.
At that time the cat and the rat were good friends, and promised each other that they would participate together at the race.
But that morning, the rat didn't call the cat, instead he went to race alone very early and won the 1st place.
The cat waited for the rat the day long, but the rat didn't meet him, so he was excluded form the zodiac for not having participated to the race.
That's the reason why cats hate rats and mice.

The most widespread version doesn't mention the cat, but says that the rat climbed on top of the ox, who runs very fast, and when the ox almost arrived, the rat jumped ahead and won 1st place.

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Re: Why cat instead of rabbit?

Postby Pangu » 2014-03-04, 3:45

hāozigǎnr wrote:But that paper doesn't seem to explain how cat became hare, or how hare became cat.
It's probably irrelevant, but it should be noted that in Chinese the buffalo 水牛 is only considered a particular kind of cow 牛.

It is very relevant because the animal names used in Chinese and other Asian languages that use Chinese zodiac are "general animal names" and not specific ones. For example, 牛 refers to all cow-like animals, including water buffalo.

The differences only appear when they get translated into English, this is why we have cow, bull, buffalo... etc. all for 牛 and rooster and chicken for 雞.

In other words, I wouldn't take anyone seriously if they use translated English terms to compare.

hāozigǎnr wrote:I don't have papers to quote, but can only tell Chinese folk legends. My father's version said that originally the zodiacal animals were 13, and there was a race in the early morning to establish the animal orders.
At that time the cat and the rat were good friends, and promised each other that they would participate together at the race.
But that morning, the rat didn't call the cat, instead he went to race alone very early and won the 1st place.
The cat waited for the rat the day long, but the rat didn't meet him, so he was excluded form the zodiac for not having participated to the race.
That's the reason why cats hate rats and mice.

The most widespread version doesn't mention the cat, but says that the rat climbed on top of the ox, who runs very fast, and when the ox almost arrived, the rat jumped ahead and won 1st place.

Actually a version I read in a children's book when I was young in Taiwan mentions the cat, and to my impression almost all kids are familiar with the fact that the cat was part of the race. However, the difference is that both the cat and the rat were on the back of the ox and the rat pushed the cat off right before they reached the finish line. Since the cat didn't know how to swim, he never made it.

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Re: Why cat instead of rabbit? [Vietnamese]

Postby anhnguyen » 2016-09-13, 17:37

Chinese-Year of the Rabbit vs Vietnamese-Year of the Cat.

Chinese Jade Emperor Legend
There is no sign for the cat in the Chinese Zodiac. This is because according to the legend, the rat pushed the cat off the ox while the ox was carrying both of them across the river. Since then, cats have sought revenge by going after rats.

A Vietnamese Legend
The cat is a superior hunter, while the rat is not a good hunter at all. To make up for his weakness, the rat uses his mind to steal the cat’s food. Since that time, cats have always gone after rats.

Here are famous people under rabbit or cat’s sign

Jessie Ventura was born in 1951- Rabbit or Cat. He is a strong fighter and loves to hunt down his prey.

Michael Jordan was born in 1963-Rabbit or Cat. He can jump, defend, and steal the ball. He used his forearm to keep his opponent at bay in order to make a jump shot. That’s why they call him a black cat.

Rafael Nadal was born in 1986-Tiger vs Novak Djokovic was born in 1987-Rabbit or Cat. Tigers and Cats are both great on defense, but the cat is more skilled at defense. Because of this, the cat wears down his opponents.

Lionel Messi was born in 1987-Rabbit or Cat. He always weasels his way in to score a goal.

In order to stop a cat, bring in the cat’s natural enemy-a dog. Because of this fact, whoever was born in the year of the dog can stop a cat. To the European Football League: if you want to stop Lionel Messi. Put a defense player who was born in the year of the dog (1982 or 1994).

If you know someone born in the year of the Rabbit or Cat(1951, 1963, 1975 or 1987). Observe their character and ask this question: do they behave more like a Rabbit or a Cat? You make the call. Remember: not every legend came from China.


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