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2023 is the Year of The Rabbit

Updated: Dec 26, 2022 Chinese Calendar

The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, which is based on the cycle of the moon as well as on Earth's course around the sun. A year on this Chinese calendar is 353 to 355 days. Gregorian calendar, on the other hand, is solar, and a year is 365 days. Today in China, the Gregorian calendar is used for the official/formal matters. ( If you'd like to know more about the Chinese calendar, this is another quick read. (

The lunisolar Chinese calendar was introduced to Japan in the 7th or 8th century. Today the Japanese only use the Chinese Zodiac since the Gregorian calendar system was adopted in 1873. It is based on years rather than months and has 12 year cycles which are named after different animals. The Chinese Zodiac goes much more complicated from here, but most Japanese people are only aware of what animal year they were born in. For example, I was born in 1975, the year of the Rabbit, which of course means it only come every 12 years. Some people believe this is a year of good luck, the others believe it is bad luck. I am not superstitious, but it does feel special as every new year does, to set my long-term goal.

Circular chinese calendar indicating years and its animals

A few weeks ago I designed a 2023 Year of The Rabbit new year's card for a woodblock printing experience stall for a Japanese Taiko (drumming) Performance. I admit this was rushed a bit, but I wanted to explain my design process.

Chinese characters are used in Japan in combination with Japanese characters known as Hiragana, and Katakana. Chinese characters are pictographs, so if you look at them carefully, you can start to see how the characters ended up the way they are. The characters (there are two) for "rabbit" are the same. I tried to work backwards and figure out how both characters were made, as you can see below.

A5 size woodblock print of my deconstructed Chinese character "rabbit" bunny for the year of the rabbit, 2023

I love Chinese characters... let's look at another obvious example. Can you guess what these three characters mean?

#1, on the left, is "tree." #2, in the middle, is.. "woods." If you guessed #3 to be "Forest," you'd be right. You can't of course guess all the 50,000 characters (you need to know about 2000-3000 to be able to read a newspaper) correctly, as it can get more complex than above examples, but you can guess some of them. Being a visual person, I like being able to learn letters and words this way.




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