Year of the Rat

Item #





Qing Late 19th Century


Ink & pigment on paper




overall 85" x 19.5" (216 x 49 cm); image 51" x 11-5/8" (129 x 29 cm)





There are 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac. Therefore, everyone that is born will have an animal identification. There are books that tell about the personalities and characteristics of people born in those particular years. It is an intriguing and interesting thing that people discuss and talk about. The following painting refers to an animal year. However the story that is related is not reflecting the character or personality of a person born in that year, but is simply a story in Chinese literature that came to mind with the artist who drew this painting. He was undoubtedly a scholar who loved to draw and used the excuse of creating a series of zodiac related paintings. That artist's name was Wang Su. The paintings were done in the late 19th century, before the end of the Qing Dynasty.

This painting refers to the year of the rat. There was an emperor who was a Taoist. He wanted to test his officials, and so he put a rat in a box and asked them what was inside. They all made their guesses and were very astute, because they all guessed it was a rat. But when the box was opened there was not one rat, but four. The rat had had a litter of 3 more rats. This is a story that illustrates how quickly rats proliferate.



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