News ID: 112129
Publish Date : 05 February 2023 - 21:48

Silk Road’s Role in Iran-China Cultural Exchanges

TEHRAN -- The ancient Silk Road led to cultural exchanges between China and Iran, leaving visible marks on today’s Iranian cultural tradition, one of which is the 12-animal zodiac, an Iranian historian said about the recent Chinese Lunar New Year, or Year of the Rabbit.
China celebrated the Year of the Rabbit on Jan 22 according to its lunar calendar. In the Chinese calendar and zodiac, the rabbit is the fourth in the 12-year cycle of animals.
“Like in China, the upcoming new year in Iran, which will begin on March 22, is also the Year of the Rabbit,” says Kourosh Salehi, a historian and international affairs expert at the International University of Islamic Denominations.
“What’s interesting is that throughout its evolution and history, the concept of the animals has entered Iran’s culture from China and East Asia,” Salehi told Xinhua.
“Iranians, in addition to naming and enumerating the years based on their ordinal numbers according to the solar Hijri calendar, still say what animal each year represents,” he says.
Salehi believes that China’s cultural impact on Iran is also reflected in the three-hare (or three-rabbit) symbol found on different artifacts.
The circular motif is very well known and appears on paintings and pictures either carved on coins, trays and metal objects or painted on clay dishes and tiles. It has been found in many parts of the world, including East Asia and the Middle East. In Iran, a tray from the Middle Ages was found with such symbol.
Salehi says that the carved three-rabbit symbol found in Iran perfectly conforms to the ones seen on ancient samples discovered in China, showing the Chinese cultural impact on Iranian culture during the Ilkhanate (1256-1335) period.
At the time, the rabbit symbol, as reflected on some metal artifacts and coins found in Iran, was believed to have been brought to Iran by Chinese artists and painters, says Salehi.
Commenting on other objects found in Iran featuring more or less the same rabbit-based symbol, Salehi says that there are two very interesting coins with the symbol in his personal collection.
According to the graphological analysis of the coins and the design of the frames around the rabbits, it can be assumed that the artifacts date back to the Ilkhanate era. In Iranian culture, the topic of the rabbit was often mentioned in Iran’s ancient, religious and mythological narratives.
Among the distinctive features of the three-rabbit symbols on all of the artifacts found in Iran so far, is that the rabbits are pictured at the center of a round object chasing each other in a circle, which probably implies the continuation of the circle of life, fertility and death.
From the point of view of semiotics and mythology, Salehi says the rabbit symbolizes fertility, swiftness, cleverness and social life.