A little mouse ran up a lamp

to steal some oil and couldn’t get down

It squeaked for its grandma

But she wouldn’t come

So down it fell, clattering all the way

The lively and loveable mouse in this Beijing nursery rhyme is a great favorite of Chinese children. It is said that every year around the Lunar New Year, the mice send their daughters off to get married. A traditional New Year’s painting from Sichuan Province, “Mouse Takes a Wife,” shows a great wedding procession of mice banging gongs and hitting drums. The mouse bride rides in a traditional bridal sedan chair, while the mouse groom sits astride a toad, decked out in red and green finery with a big smile on his face. A crowd of excited mouse friends surrounds them, cheering and hugging each other and adding their delight to the festive New Year’s occasion.

The characteristic behavior and appearance of mice and rats have given rise to many expressive Chinese idioms. The belief that mice have poor eyesight is the basis of the expression “A mouse can’t see past its whiskers,” describing a person with a limited outlook. “Rat belly, chicken guts” is a metaphor for someone who is intolerant and narrow-minded. Imagine the discomfort of a rat stuck inside a bellows, buffeted by air being sucked in from one end and expelled out the other. People who have to resolve conflicting complaints often refer to this image, wryly saying that they are “Trapped like a rat in a bellows, catching flak from both ends.”

It can be seen that Rat, although first in the Chinese zodiac, can be an object of scorn as well as admiration.


The characteristics attributed to Rat are similar to those of Aquarius in the Western zodiac. Rats are sensitive, resourceful, and adaptable. People born in the Year of the Rat are kind, curious, and quick-witted by nature. They are good at seizing opportunity and can easily master a wide range of subjects. These qualities, along with their innate optimism, make them very lovable. Women born in the Year of the Rat are very clean and neat, and create meticulously organized domestic environments.

However, people born in the Year of the Rat also tend to be rather timid and lacking in leadership qualities. They generally do not have the forcefulness to serve as authority figures.

People whose birthdays fall during the following periods are born in the Year of the Rat:


The first date indicates Lunar New Year’s Day. The second date indicates the last day of the lunar year.

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