Many moons ago, the rabbit swiftly made its way across a river, winning the fourth year of the zodiac. Come 22 January 2023, race into the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ with The Tea Centre’s latest iteration of the pu-erh tea box.
Elegant, energetic, and bright… the perfect way to describe those born under the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ and our celebratory pu-erh gift box! Similar to our 2022 tea box, our 2023 rendition commemorates the longstanding connection between Chinese cultural traditions and tea.
Coincidences are glimpses into a harmonious universe at play, which is made apparent in how our pu-erh box brings together China’s historic tea bricks, the ‘Year of the Rabbit’, and the moon that dictates it all.
Specifically, the dozen mini pu-erh tuo cha cakes in this gift not only mirror the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac; they also come in a semicircle shape reminiscent of the bright side of the moon. The same moon that’s home to the moon goddess Chang’e and her pet, the Jade Rabbit.
Two opposing tales: the great race & the moon
In celebrating the ‘Year of the Rabbit’, The Tea Centre encourages you to reflect on the two biggest tales about the rabbit in Chinese/East Asian folklore while enjoying your pu-erh tea cakes! If you need help brewing your tuo cha, check out our brewing guide here.
A burst of rapid footsteps awoke the rabbit…
The tale most familiar to Western audiences is ‘The Great Race’. This is the myth that dictates the cyclical order in which we celebrate certain animals for Lunar New Year. In this ancient story, the Jade Emperor decides to hold a race for all the animals. The emperor states that the first twelve to cross a river and meet him on the other side will have a year on the calendar named after them. The year they’re given is determined by the order in which they arrive.
It is said that the rabbit, as the quickest animal, was actually first to reach the river! However, due to its vanity at arriving first, it decided to take a rest nearby. In this way, the rat and ox (with the former sitting on top of the other) beat the rabbit and crossed the river, taking first and second place in the zodiac.
It was only when the persevering and powerful tiger’s loud footsteps awoke the rabbit that it realised its mistake. Using its ingenuity and agility, the rabbit hopped across the river using logs to become the fourth year on the Chinese calendar.
For this reason, those born under the Year of the Rabbit are thought to be swift-thinking, smart and optimistic. However, they may be prone to bouts of pride and idleness too.
Look to the moon and you will see the rabbit mixing up the elixir of life for Chang’e…
As the moon goddess’ sole companion, the rabbit is said to be one of the most evocative symbols of the Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival. In this legend, the Jade Emperor appears again, except this time disguised as a beggar looking for the perfect companion to help make the elixir of life.
The Jade Emperor did not trust humans and instead sought an apprentice from within the animal kingdom. In the disguise of a beggar, he came across three animals—the monkey, fox, and rabbit—and pleaded for food as a test to see which animal was the most worthy.
The monkey found fruit and the fox hunted fish, but the rabbit found nothing for the beggar. However, as the monkey and fox gave their offerings to the beggar who sat by a fire, the rabbit realised it could offer itself as food. And so, the rabbit sacrificed itself by hopping into the fire.
Seeing the selflessness of the rabbit, the emperor immediately took off its disguise and saved the animal from the flames. Deeming it the noblest of the trio, the Jade emperor took the rabbit to live eternally on the moon.
To this day, you can still see the jade rabbit mixing the elixir of life for immortals like the moon goddess Chang’e. That is why it’s said that the markings on the moon look like a rabbit using a mortar and pestle.
How to gift the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ tea box
Given its lucky red packaging and the fact that pu-erh tuo cha used to be its own currency in ancient China (see the Tea Horse Road), this gift is The Tea Centre’s neo-traditional nod to the red envelope. Giving and receiving hongbao (lai see in Cantonese) is a beautiful East/Southeast Asian tradition and one that The Tea Centre is honouring in the design of our pu-erh tea box.
Moreover, this isn’t a gift that is solely reserved for Lunar New Year festivities! Due to the rabbit’s close connection to the moon, it’s also a beautiful gift to give during the Mid-Autumn Festival (or a treat for yourself during China’s Golden Week).
Then again, who says you need an event in order to enjoy this tea box? Outside of its cultural context, pu-erh is still one of The Tea Centre’s most unique and delicious tea offerings. Earthy yet bright, this tea box makes for the perfect introduction into the world of specialist brews and Chinese teas too.
Purchase the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ pu-erh tea box here.