| 2020-02-18 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
The above is the Chinese character for rat or mouse. It is a tradition in China that one animal is used to symbolize the year, and the rat comes first in the 12-year zodiac calendar cycle, enjoying pride of place. Rats and mice are symbols of fertility, wealth and plenty, and people born in the Year of the Rat are considered to be smart, optimistic, agile and aggressive.


Shu Yao Tian Kai 
Yao is a verb meaning “gnaw.” Tian is a noun referring to the sky or the Heaven. Kai is a verb meaning “open.” 
This phrase denotes a classical Chinese allusion that comes from an old fairy tale. It is known that the story of Panku (also Pangu) is a Chinese creation myth. Actually, there is also another popular Chinese creation myth, and it is about a rat.  
It is said that in primitive times, the Heaven and the Earth were entirely in a mass of chaos, and the universe had not yet been formed. In the middle of the night when other animals were sound asleep, the rat was still active, displaying its energy in the pitch dark. The Heaven and the Earth were in disarray until this rat came along and endeavored to bite a hole, straining its every nerve and gnawing without ever wavering. It bit relentlessly into the chaos until it finally restored order to the universe. 
Other folk tales tell of how the Heaven and the Earth were originally stuffed in a golden gourd, symbolizing the universe. A rat gnawed through until finally a rift appeared in the golden gourd and it crashed open. The sun revealed its rays and shone forth. From then on, the Heaven and the Earth were split, and that was the beginning of how the world came into being. And yet more tales say rats stole grain from Heaven to help humans. 
The rat thus became the hero who created the universe, chosen as the first among the 12 zodiac animals. This story endows rats with cultural and mythical prestige in China. The zodiacal rat is thus layered with symbolism. The totem of the rat symbolizes the worship of the sun and the pursuit of brightness. Associated with one hour before and after midnight, the rat also typically represents new beginnings and hope.
edited by BAI LE