In ancient Chinese traditional cultural cognition, "rabbit" with auspicious meaning can be divided into mortal rabbits and fairy rabbits, usually distinguished by hair color.

Common wild rabbits are mostly yellow-gray or brown. Rabbits with pure white hair were very rare in ancient times, so they are often regarded as auspicious rabbits in mythology, and appear in myths, legends and works of art related to rabbits in the past dynasties.

  Rare things are more expensive.

In ancient times, if a white rabbit was found, it would be dedicated to the royal family.

According to the "Book of Han", in the first year of Jianping, the third year of Yuanhe, and the first year of Yongkang, local people captured white hares three times and presented them to the emperor.

There is also a record in "Hou Han Shu": "In September, the barbarians outside Rinan offered white pheasants and white rabbits." "History of the Ming Dynasty" Volume 18 records: "Forty-one years in the spring and March of Xinmao, the white rabbit gave birth to a son, the Ministry of Rites, please tell the temple , Xu Zhi, all the ministers congratulate." At that time, important events such as the emperor or the princes going on tour required offering sacrifices to the ancestral temple. For auspiciousness.

The sun is rising, and the rabbit is on the ground

  The early "rabbit" character appeared in people's life in the way of observing objects and taking images, which included the formation of characters and the manufacture of imitation living utensils.

In the limited number of oracle bone inscriptions, there is the word "rabbit", and its pictogram is as follows: Figure ①.

From these pictographs, it can be seen that the character "rabbit" is very vivid and vivid, with the unique physical characteristics of rabbits such as long ears and short tail.

  The image of "rabbit" has appeared in people's lives since ancient times in the form of living utensils or accessories.

Rabbit-shaped products such as prehistoric jade rabbits, rabbit-shaped jade carvings of the Shang Dynasty, green jade rabbits of the Western Zhou Dynasty, red agate rabbits of the Han Dynasty, talc rabbits of the Tang Dynasty, round jade rabbits of the Song Dynasty, crystal rabbits of the Yuan Dynasty, and lying rabbits embedded with gemstones in the Qing Dynasty all focus on presenting the natural characteristics of rabbits. .

Rabbits are mostly lying down, with long ears attached to the back, front legs lying on both sides of the body, and hind legs curled under the body, showing a gentle and peaceful posture.

The types of rabbit-shaped utensils tended to be diversified after the Sui and Tang Dynasties. People used a variety of materials to shape the image of a naive rabbit, and the shape was more three-dimensional, and the description was detailed and vivid.

The shape of rabbit-shaped products from piece carving to round carving, from plane to three-dimensional, reflects that people's aesthetic taste in sculpture is more realistic.

  The more and more rabbit-shaped products come from the profound implication contained in the image of "rabbit" - the rabbit is a symbol of many children, many blessings and full of vitality.

"Shuowen Jiezi·Mao Bu" says "Mao, Mao Ye".

Liu Xi of the Eastern Han Dynasty also interpreted the word "Mao" in his "Shi Ming" as "mao".

"It is also when the soil emerges from the earth, and the qi of the sun begins to emerge from the earth." Maoshi, also known as rabbit time (five to seven in the morning), is the time when all things grow and grow.

The twelve zodiac signs are also named according to the daily activity time of the animals, because the earthly branch corresponding to the rabbit is opposite to the time of Mao, so it is called "Mao Rabbit".

  Ban Gu of the Eastern Han Dynasty recorded in "Erya": "Rabbits say childbirth." Rabbits became a symbol of ancient people's expectations for reproduction by virtue of their strong fertility.

Rabbits are also called "Tuzi" because the mother rabbit gave birth to her cubs in the hole. When the cubs came out of the hole, they seemed to break through the ground. People regard rabbits as children of the land, and therefore value the relationship between rabbits and the earth. close relationship between.

The ancients also believed that rabbits were born from the mouth. Wang Chong of the Eastern Han Dynasty said that when the female rabbit gave birth, the baby rabbits "come out of the mouth" in "Lunheng·Strange Chapter"; Looking at the moon and getting pregnant, spitting in the mouth", so the rabbit is also called "spitting".

In the cognition of the ancients, the rabbit at this time has a magic that is different from other mammals.

  Today, people of different nationalities and regions in China still regard the rabbit as a symbol of auspiciousness.

For example, Miao people usually choose the year of the rabbit to get married and give birth. They wear rabbit-shaped jade products to symbolize family harmony, and wear rabbit-head shoes for their children to ward off evil spirits and avoid disasters to ensure safety; Blessed mascots, etc.

In Shanxi, Shaanxi and other places, there is a proverb that goes, "Pomegranate, snake and rabbit, prosperity and wealth must be rich".

"Historical Records·Jin Family" has a saying: "The dragon wants to go to the sky, and the five snakes are the assistants."

Among them, the "dragon" refers to Chong'er, and the snake refers to Jie Zitui.

The Cold Food Festival commemorates Jie Zitui and his mother, making pasta in the shape of "snake and rabbit" to express loyalty and filial piety.

Among them, "snake" represents Jie Zitui, and "rabbit" represents his mother.

The snake-pan-rabbit-shaped noodles called "snake pan pan" in southern Shanxi are usually used to worship ancestors and given to relatives and friends to express blessings.

Later, "Snake and Rabbit" was gradually integrated into folk culture such as the zodiac and marriage. For example, the "Snake and Rabbit" window grille is a symbol of many children and grandchildren. It is often used when men and women are married, and it is people's yearning for a happy life.

The shadow of the moon appears, and the rabbit is in the sky

  What is the shadow in the middle of the moon, and what is the relationship between the rabbit and the moon, the ancients have different opinions on this.

Theories about whether the mid-month shadow is a "toad" or a "rabbit" have undergone a diverse fusion process.

After the Han Dynasty, it was basically unified as "toads and rabbits coexist", which confirmed the existence of rabbits in the myths and legends related to the moon in the future.

  Qu Yuan asked in his "Heavenly Questions": "What is the virtue of the night light, and the child will be born again after death? Jue Liwei, and Gu Tu is in the belly?" For what benefit does the moon keep the rabbit in the belly?

In the Western Han Dynasty, Liu Xiang used the theory of "yin and yang" to explain the existence of "toads" and "rabbits" on the moon: "What are the rabbits and toads in the moon? The moon is yin; toad is yang, and it is related to the moon." The rabbit and the yin are connected to the yang." The images of toads and rabbits often appear together in art works related to the moon.

A jumping toad and a running rabbit are vividly depicted in the toad tiles of the Western Han Dynasty, and the tiles look like a full moon.

  Wang Chong of the Eastern Han Dynasty said in "Lunheng·Shuo Ri": "Confucians say: there are three-legged crows in the sun, and rabbits and toads in the moon." People are full of imagination about the heaven, and this is reflected in many portrait stones and silk paintings. .

In these works, the sun and the moon are together, the sun is represented as a three-legged crow, and the moon is represented as a toad and a rabbit, such as the T-shaped silk painting unearthed from Mawangdui No. 1 Han Tomb.

  Regarding the image of "human head and snake body" in Mawangdui's silk paintings of heaven, there are theories of Nuwa, Xihe, and Taiyi.

According to the records in "Shan Hai Jing": "The cave of the Queen Mother of the West is located on the hill of Kunlun"; "Huainanzi·Lan Ming Xun" records "Yi invited the medicine of immortality to the Queen Mother of the West".

The legend about the Queen Mother of the West appeared in the pre-Qin and Han Dynasties such as "the medicine of immortality" and "Western Kunlun".

"Natural History" records that "Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty loved the way of immortality, and sacrificed to famous mountains and rivers in order to seek the way of immortality. At that time, the Queen Mother of the West sent envoys to take the white deer to tell the emperor to come, and he was waiting for him in the Jiuhua Palace." Later, Taoism regarded the Queen Mother of the West as The supreme god of heaven.

The image of the Queen Mother of the West, the jade rabbit, the toad (represented by the moon), and the three-legged crow (represented by the sun) form an overall image system.

  At the same time, the legend that the Queen Mother of the West is in charge of the elixir makes the image of the rabbit that represents the moon appear as a pounding medicine.

"Han Yuefu·Dong Fu Xing·Want to go to the mountains" said: "Take the magic medicine Ruo Muduan. The white rabbit kneels and smashes the medicine shrimp pills. Offer your Majesty a jade pot. Take this medicine and you will get immortals." Jin Dynasty Fu Xuan wrote in "Imitation of Heaven": "What is there in the middle of the moon? The white rabbit smashes the medicine, which brings good fortune and good fortune." The image of the Jade Rabbit created in Guizhenghui Lingyuan, holding a short stick, "one end is strong, the other is thin, but looks like the head of a pestle" fights with Monkey King. Later Taiyin Xingjun brought Fairy E to call the Jade Rabbit Jing "is the Jade Rabbit that I smashed the Xuanshuang Immortal Medicine in Guanghan Palace".

  In the Eastern Han Dynasty, the lintel of the Suide tomb gate in Shaanxi has a pattern of a jade rabbit pounding medicine.

The murals of the Song Dynasty tombs discovered in Xinshao County and Liujialing, Guiyang County, Hunan Province all have patterns of jade rabbit pounding medicine.

From the Han Dynasty to the Song Dynasty, these embossed jade rabbits pounding medicine are all in a standing posture (similar to the standing posture of humans), holding a medicine pestle in both hands or holding a medicine mortar in one hand, and maintaining a standing posture on the hind legs to maintain balance. The common one is a single rabbit pounding medicine There are two forms of Shuangtu Daoyao.

The Jade Rabbit Pounding Medicine was also printed on the copper plate of the "Jinan Liujia Kung Fu Needle Shop" in the Song Dynasty. The middle part of the copper plate shows a standing Jade Rabbit, surrounded by the name of the shop and the words on the poster.

In the Ming Dynasty, the pattern of jade rabbit pounding medicine appeared in a large number of Kesi, brocade, coil embroidery and embroidery.

Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the image of the jade rabbit pounding medicine has also appeared on earrings, purses, bronze mirror sets, shallow bowls, snuff bottles and other objects.

It can be seen that the legend of "Jade Rabbit pounding medicine" has a great impact on people's lives.

  In addition, the familiar "Rabbit Master" culture is also related to the legend of "Jade Rabbit Pounding Medicine".

At the end of the Ming Dynasty, Ji Kun recorded in "The Remaining Manuscript of Huawang Pavilion": "The Mid-Autumn Festival in Beijing is mostly shaped like a rabbit with clay, and the clothes sit like a human being, and the children worship it." It is said that the jade rabbit came down to help the people because of the plague in the capital at that time. , the Jade Rabbit transformed into "Rabbit Master" can cure diseases and save people, and Rabbit Master therefore means peace and auspiciousness.

To this day, the artwork of "Master Rabbit" is still loved by people.

  People today are like people in ancient times. They love the liveliness of rabbits, the liveliness of rabbits, and the infinite vitality of rabbit culture.

In modern art works, we can still find rabbits everywhere.

Whether it is Qi Baishi's "Dangui Twin Rabbits", Zhang Daqian's "Chang'e Flying to the Moon", or Xu Beihong's "Zodiac: Rabbit", these works of art all contain the heritage of traditional rabbit culture.

Behind every vivid rabbit image are thousands of hopes, expressing people's respect for nature.

This is closely related to the macrocosmic life theory of "harmony between man and nature" in Chinese culture.

Whether it is a divine rabbit or a common rabbit, the sun and the moon alternate, and history flows.

Although the past time has passed, these cultural carriers enable us to still feel the vivid and beautiful cultural images in the course of time, allowing us to perceive the Chinese nation's spiritual pursuit of respecting life and harmony with nature since ancient times.

  (Author: Li Muzi is a doctoral student at the Art Research Institute of Communication University of China; Wang Heite is a professor and doctoral supervisor at the Art Research Institute of Communication University of China)

  (Guangming Daily, January 20, 2023, page 16)