Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

The Year of the Rat

Happy Chinese New Year! It's 4706 and the start of the year of the rat, the first creature in the 12 year lunar cycle. When I first found out I was born in the year of the rat it was, to be frank, a big disappointment – a dragon, tiger or hare please, I don't want to be a scavenging rodent spreading fleas and living in sewers! I was obviously brain-washed at junior school by having to learn by heart long tracts of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", I had nightmares about those rats! No, we're talking rats with a positive spin – the rat that got pole position in the zodiac hitched a lift on the ox's back and then, with the chequered flag in sight, jump down and skipped over the line whooping "I won!!!!" I suppose that's similar to the igenuity needed to work out how to gnaw through a wall to get to the under-gardeners' layers pellets. So in honour of the lateral thinking rodent I made six little origami rats using some beautiful Japanese washi paper.

The animals selected by the Buddha to represent the 12 lunar years are a popular subject for Japanese printmakers. A couple of years ago I bought a print at a local auction and discovered that it is one of a set 12 designs by Hirosada depicting each animal of the zodiac. I wondered what Hirosada's 'rat' picture was like. It seems that recently a complete set of Hirosada's 12 prints has been sold, and they are described in detail here. Hirosada's 'rat' is actually the actor Nakamura Utaemon IV playing Nikki Danj├┤ – a character who has supernatural powers and can disguise himself as a giant rat. It's obviously an Oscar-winning interpretation of rattiness!


  1. What a lovely lot of information! And the paper mice are cute, too.
    I didn't realise that the Chinese and Japanese zodiacs are slightly different;I am a rooster in both.

  2. fascinating ... I never knew any of this!

  3. Oh those paper rats are enchanting. There are some good rats too - how about Ratty in ind in the Willows!

    I'm a snake and D's a monkey.

    Great print and good post. Thank you.

  4. Dinahmow - it's facinating how many variations there are.

    Becca - I knew bits and pieces, but researching the story behind the picture I bought has been so interesting.

    CS - red floral paper rats are so much cuter than the ones living in the compost heap!!
    I have to correct you about Ratty in The Wind in the Willows - he's a dear little water rat (or water vole to be more accurate).

  5. Those prints are really interesting Celia. I am a rat too.

  6. Happy Chinese New Year Celia. We have just returned from our travels and spent time in Hong Kong and Singapore. My other half was born in the year of the rat, we do have a laugh, I have a photo of him standing by a huge sign. We also laugh at the fact that I was born in the year of the dragon, say no more! x


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