Cat Icons in Vietnamese Folk Culture

9:20:31 AM | 1/20/2023

Cat is the fourth animal, after the Rat, Buffalo and Tiger among the 12 zodiac animals, a symbol of intelligence, aptitude and agility.

Cats were domesticated very early. Currently, cats are one of seven animals commonly kept by humans, a popular pet in the world, and a close friend to children and adults.

Characterized to be clean animals, cats like to lie in warm places in the sun. They are careful, neat and agile. In life, they are quite helpful for humans as they help protect agricultural goods and materials against rats. Cats often hunt at night because they are sharp-sighted, agile and excellent at climbing to make no noise at approaching and catching rats. During the day, cats often lie down to rest and keep warm. They like to be quiet, discreet, and rest with their eyes closed.

Cats are popular in Vietnamese folk culture.

Cats appear in poetry, folk songs, proverbs, artworks, literature, and music. There are a lot of sayings about cats like “As sad as a cat has its ears cut off”, “Cats praise others to have a long tail”, “As weak as a cat wrestle with a pile of straws”, “The cat that climbs the areca tree/Asks why the neighboring mouse is absent from home/The mouse goes to a distant market/Buys fish sauce, buys salt for the death anniversary of the cat's father”. Each folk song, proverb, and idiom carries a lesson for people, aiming to advise and remind them to live well and learn the good instincts and virtues of the cat.

In Vietnam, the image of cats is already displayed on folk paintings. In the "Rat Wedding" painting composed by Dong Ho Painting Village, there is a big wedding of a highly educated rat which is conferred a doctorate title by king. To have a successful wedding, it has to offer a gift to a fat sitting cat. This vividly reflects a reality of feudal society. The image of cats is also seen in sculptures in sacred places as in the Communal House of Binh Luc Village - Quang Ninh or Linh Quang Temple - Hai Phong.

In fengshui, the cat is considered a mascot that brings auspiciousness and prosperity and has a spiritual power to neutralize killing intents. With such great symbolic meanings of fengshui, cat statues are often displayed in the house with the desire to bring good things and fortune to the family.

On the occasion of the Lunar New Year of the Cat in 2023, the Ministry of Information and Communications officially introduced a set of stamps "Year of the Cat 2023" with New-Year wishes for blessing, good luck, success and fortune.

The set includes two stamps and one block designed by artist Nguyen Quang Vinh. The set of stamps is available on the public postal network from December 1, 2022 to June 30, 2024. The cats on the stamps are in a modern style with definitive and strong lines, but also feature softness and flexibility. The cats in the two stamps are arranged symmetrically, facing each other as a wish for New Year reunion.

By Quynh Chi, Vietnam Business Forum