Red background with red fans and white rabbit on left

Lunar New Year 2023: What does the Year of the Rabbit mean?

18 January 2023
Celebrating Lunar New Year 2023
Associate Professor Xiaohuan Zhao, from Chinese Studies in the School of Languages and Culture, shares what it means to be born in a Year of the Rabbit.

What is Lunar New Year, and why is this the Year of the Rabbit?

Lunar New Year, referred to in China as nongli xinnian 農曆新年 – meaning 'agricultural calendar New Year’ or ‘farmers’ calendar New Year’ – is thought to have originated in ancient China around 3500 years ago. It is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture, marking the end of winter and the beginning of the new year (based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar). 

According to the Chinese zodiac, a traditional classification system based on the lunar calendar, each year in a 12-year rotation cycle is assigned an animal. The cycle begins with the Year of the Rat and ends with the Year of the Pig. In between are the Years of the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster and Dog.

The Year of the Rabbit is the fourth year in the cycle, following the Year of the Tiger and preceding the Year of the Dragon. Previous Years of the Rabbit include: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1974, 1963, 1951 and 1939.

Though celebration of the Lunar New Year originated in China, many other cultures in East Asia also observe the holiday, including Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. 

In Vietnamese culture, the fourth animal in the Zodiac is a cat – not a rabbit. This means 2023, for Vietnamese people, is the Year of the Cat. 

What are people born in the Year of the Rabbit like?

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are thought to be sentimental and kind. Image credit: Beibei Yuan, @yuan_bei_bei

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are believed to be quiet, kind, polite, restrained and thoughtful. They also tend to hesitate and wait, proceeding with caution or reservation, which can cause them to miss opportunities. 

Highly sensitive and sentimental, those born in the Year of the Rabbit attach importance to friendship and fellowship. However, due to their tender-hearted nature, they can be easily hurt and influenced by their emotions. 

Why is 2023 considered a Black-Rabbit Year?

This year is the Black-Rabbit Year of Kuimao; otherwise known as the Yin Water Rabbit. As the Heavenly Stem of Ren 壬 and the Earthly Branch of Yin 寅 belong to water in the Five Elements, people previously born in the Year of the Rabbit, as well as those born in the Years of the Rooster, Dragon, Rat and Horse, clash with the Grand Commander of the Year, or Taisui (太歲).

In Chinese folk religion, a Taisui is the ‘God of the Year’ who is in charge of the fates and fortunes of people born under their Zodiac year (benming nian 本命年). There are 60 different Gods of the Year, and each take turns to rule in cycles. 

In Chinese astrology, people may incur bad luck and misfortunes for themselves, their family – and even their friends – if their zodiac animal happens to be the same as that of their Taisui. Therefore, people born in the years of the Rabbit, Rooster, Dragon, Rat or Horse should be particularly cautious in their deeds and words in 2023. 

Auspicious practices for 2023: keep your gold necklace in the jewellery box

People born in the Year of the Rabbit, Rooster, Dragon, Rat or Horse should avoid wearing gold jewellery in 2023, as it may bring them - and those dear to them - misfortune. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Auspicious practices for those clashing with Taisui include keeping green plants in offices, living rooms and bedrooms, and wearing emerald rings and necklaces, and black obsidian bracelets.

As red is the lucky colour of all time for people in Chinese culture, there is a longstanding tradition for people in their benming year to wear red underwear, red socks, red shoes, red scarfs, red gloves, red bracelets, red belts and trousers with a red waistband. 

It is advised they avoid anything yellow, such as gold jewellery, and particularly purple (including purple plants), both of which belong to fire and can bring misfortune or even disaster. 

Associate Professor Xiaohuan Zhao is an expert in Chinese Literary and Theatre Studies in the School of Languages of Culture. He is also a member of the China Studies Centre and Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. His areas of research expertise include Chinese culture, literature and theatre. 

Top photo: Adobe Stock

Associate Professor Xiaohuan Zhao

Chinese Literary and Theatre Studies
See Associate Professor Zhao's academic profile

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