Taiwanese designer hsia-ying lin has worked together with craft artisan jun-ching tang on
‘moon rabbit’ cup and plate. made from black clay, these tableware pieces interpret the famous
chinese fairytale of the rabbit on the moon, commemorated every autumn in taiwan during
the moon festival celebrations. lin and tang have designed a cup in which the rabbit sips
the water within along the lip of the vessel; and a plate where a rabbit is found sitting on its edge,
its stretched ‘reflection’ becoming the dish itself.
Grandpa Rabbit, or “Tu Yer” in Chinese, is a clay rabbit figurine said to be modeled after the legendary Jade Rabbit pounding medicine on the moon. It’s an age-old folk toy and a mascot in Beijing.
According to legend, once, a plague wrecked havoc on the city of Beijing. Almost every family was affected and nothing seemed effective in curing the disease. Seeing that people in the human world were desperately praying for treatment, Goddess Chang’e on the moon felt really sad. She sent Jade Rabbit to the moral world on a mission to drive the plague away. When she arrived in the City of Beijing, the Jade Rabbit visited one family after another, curing a lot of people.
In return for her kindness, people recovered from the disease vied with each other in giving her some gifts, but Jade Rabbit declined them all. Instead, she borrowed some clothes to wear. As a result, wherever she went, she changed her clothes. Sometimes, she dressed like a man and sometimes a woman. Her mission took her to all parts of Beijing. After driving the plague away, Jade Rabbit returned to the moon, leaving a beautiful memory in the hearts of Beijing people. To commemorate Jade Rabbit, local people made clay figurines of her. On the 15th day of every lunar August, every family would worship Jade Rabbit by presenting juicy melons, fruits and delicious vegetables and beans as a way of showing thanks to her for the happiness and auspiciousness she brought to the human world. Jade Rabbit was affectionately called “Grandpa Rabbit” or “Grandma Rabbit”.
Legends aside, the emergence of Grandpa Rabbit actually originated from the worship of the Moon Goddess and the firm belief in mythology. The legends about the moon also played an important role. The mythical tale about a rabbit on the moon first appeared in the Sping and Autumn Period. Among the general public, the rule of “woman worshiping the Moon Goddess and men worshiping the Kitchen God” were widely followed. So, the moon-worshipping rituals were mostly carried out by women. Children are fond of mimicking their mother, and that’s where the image of Grandpa Rabbit designed for children’s mock rituals came in. After buying a Grandpa Rabbit home, kids would perform the ritual like adults. Among the Yangliuqing woodblock New Year paintings created during Qianlong Period of the Qing Dynasty, there was a painting entitled the Moon Rising above Laurel Trees, bringing to life the scene of kids worshipping Grandpa Rabbit.
Since Grandpa Rabbit were exclusively used by kids, it naturally functioned more or less like a toy. After the worshiping ritual, Grandpa Rabbit became a toy for children. To add more fun, Grandpa Rabbit figurines with strings to move the arms were created. At the same time, there were a host of other rabbit toys hitting the market, such as “Rabbit Mountain”, a toy featuring a rock mountain and a group of rabbits in various postures holding different musical instruments, as if playing music at a grand ceremony. Another interesting toy was a movable small rabbit. Due to the spring fitted to the bottom, the rabbit swings and shakes hard when slightly touched, giving a lot of fun. What’s also worth mentioning was “Grandma Rabbit”, presumably the “wife” of Grandpa Rabbit. It’s a figurine of an old lady and was put alongside Grandpa Rabbit for worshipping. In Jinan of Shandong, there was a popular toy called “Rabbit King”. It’s a clay figurine of a rabbit head and a human body in the posture of pounding medicine, with both arms holding the pestle.