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The 'Rabbit Conspiracy'

Singapore Celebrates Chinese New Year
Getty Images
Singapore Celebrates Chinese New Year

I'm beginning to wonder if the meaning of The Year of The Rabbit isn't something of a secret.

Today, as you likely already know, is the Chinese Lunar New Year: And 2011 is the Year of The Rabbit.

I spent some time this afternoon researching The Year of The Rabbit—basically looking for background information about what it means—and what the rabbit, as a Chinese zodiac sign, may portend for the year to come.

But, despite much time spent in Google, I more or less came up blank.

The Wikipedia entry for Year of The Rabbit has little more than impenetrable mumbo jumbo about the origin of the Chinese word.

(For example: "The Chinese character for the Rabbit sounds like (mão, m?u, méo, m?o, m?o); the word "mèo" is cat in Vietnamese. ")

The few websites I found that made reference to The Year of the Rabbit involved the birth of children. They noted—not so helpfully, I might add, for a Manhattan bachelor—that if my child were born this year he or she would have a calm and gentle demeanor.

Calls to several people hear in New York, involved with Chinese cultural institutions, rang straight through to voicemail.

(Agreed: If you tried to reach me on my office line on January 1st I wouldn't answer either.)

Even my CNBC colleague Nicole Lapin—whose last name means rabbit in French —did not return my emails. (But then, she wakes up around 2:00 a.m., to host CNBC's Worldwide Exchange , which airs between four and six in the morning. So perhaps she is taking a well deserved nap.)

Sadly, it seems we may never know what The Year of The Rabbit means…

But wait!

Just as I was about to post this article I received a call from Agnes Hsu, the Resident Scholar and Director of Arts and Culture at The China Institute , who was kind enough to return my message on a holiday.

I was able to ask Ms. Hsu, who is an academic archeologist, about the popular cultural significance of the year of the rabbit.

When I asked Ms. Hsu if the Year of The Rabbit would be good for business, she immediately sensed what I was up to—and laughed:

"I cannot predict the market—I'm not an economist," she said.

I reassured her. Don't worry: Most economists have terrible track records when it comes to predicting the market.

I felt a little guilty about asking her again: Ms. Hsu is very gracious—and, not surprisingly, highly cultured.

When I asked her again, she told me this about the Chinese cultural frame of reference:

"In a calendrical year of the rabbit, Chinese people would be cautious before charging forward. But, on the other hand, the rabbit is also very prolific in terms of fertility—so it is also a year of looking forward with positive energy—of looking forward to fertile rewards."

Absolutely perfect: On the one hand 'X'—but on the other 'Y'.

She certainly sounds a little like an economist.

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