The story appears on

Page A6

January 23, 2020

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Nation

Love-hate relationship with rats

Mickey and Minnie, perhaps the most popular and beloved mice in the world, are expected to have the busiest year of their career in China.

At Shanghai Disney Resort, the iconic American duo will meet the public by putting on costumes in red and gold, the traditional Chinese Lunar New Year’s colors, to celebrate the Year of the Rat, which comes once every 12 years.

Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, falls on January 25 this year. The lunar calendar has a 12-year cycle, with each year assigned an animal symbol: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Rat is the first among the 12 animals of the ancient Chinese zodiac. In Chinese culture, they are a symbol of intelligence, fertility, affluence and agility.

Despite the legends, Luo Shuwei, a historian and researcher from the Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences, has his own theory of why the rat comes first.

“Rats are most active between 1pm and 1am, which marks the beginning of a new day. Ancient Chinese had good reason to put them in the first place of the cycle,” Luo said.

Chinese people generally belong to one of two camps: rat haters and rat lovers. Quick-witted and agile rats have beset Yang Zaixue, a rat control expert in southwest China’s Guizhou Province, for more than 30 years.

The “rat killer” has caught nearly 10,000 rats over the years by analyzing their types, habits and reproductive cycle and enhancing new control technologies.

Rats found themselves on the list of the “Four Harms” in China in the 1950s, as they damaged buildings and crops, and rat bites could lead to fatal contagious diseases. Even today, some places in China are still troubled by rats.

Friend or foe?

Thanks to population control efforts, the rat density in Guizhou decreased from 15 percent in the 1980s to 3 to 5 percent by the end of 2018.

While Yang is fighting rats in mountainous Guizhou, 24-year-old Wang Yuan keeps a white hamster as a pet.

“For my parents who hate rats and hamsters, it’s a jaw-dropping hobby. But I think they are lovely and quick-witted, and I hope my pet will be healthy and strong in the New Year,” said Wang, a Shanghai-based Internet company employee.

Wang is among a growing number of young Chinese delving into the hobby of raising non-traditional pets. Among the more than 73.55 million pet owners in China, around 17.3 percent are raising rodents, such as rats and hamsters.

Behind the booming pet market is China’s fast-growing spending power, with per capita disposable income increasing nearly 60 times to 28,228 yuan (US$4,096) in 2018 from that in 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded.

Although many people still dislike rats which they consider shortsighted, cruel and selfish, Zhong Fulan, a folklore expert of East China Normal University, pointed out that people’s attitudes have been gradually changing due to reasons such as improved sanitation in urban and rural areas and the impact of pop culture.

In the 1980s, the animated TV program “Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck” debuted in China. The cute cartoon mouse has won hearts across generations.

In the Disney store on Alibaba’s Tmall, a variety of goods including clothes, toys, backpacks and mugs featuring mice have gained popularity ahead of the Lunar New Year which begins on Saturday.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend