It’s the year of Shanghaiist’s big black pussy in Vietnam!
Well, well, you learn something new everyday. Apparently, the Vietnamese calendar has “borrowed” only 10 of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs — replacing the rabbit with the cat and the ox with the buffalo.
Nobody knows exactly the reasons for the split, but some of these can be traced to varying legends on both sides of the border:
One of these stories goes that Buddha invited animals to take part in a race across a river and the first 12 to reach the shore would have the honor of appearing on the calendar.
Unable to swim, close friends the cat and rat decided to hitch a ride on the ox’s back. But as they approached the finish line, the two-faced rodent allegedly pushed the cat into the water — and the pair have been sworn enemies ever since.
The Vietnamese tell the tale somewhat differently. According to them, it was the Jade Emperor, a Taoist god, who organized the race. And in their version, the cat knows how to swim.
Says Benoit de Treglode, from the Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia in Bangkok, to the AFP: “For the Vietnamese, it’s a matter of national honour not to have copied China completely… This form of distinction in imitation can be found throughout Vietnamese culture.”
For Hoang Phat Trieu, a 76-year-old retired Vietnamese actor, his fellow countryfolk simply prefer cats to rabbits. “Most of the Vietnamese people are farmers,” he added. “The rabbit has nothing to do with Vietnamese farmers, while the cat has always been a very good friend of farmers, trying to kill the rats that threaten their crops.”