Lepus oryzinus

« previous post | next post »

Why would "rice rabbit" become a buzzword in China?

The answer is simple:  it's one of the ways that Chinese netizens try to get around the banning of #MeToo by government censors.  The CCP doesn't like #MeToo because it enables women to organize and speak out against harassment and repression.

"China Is Attempting To Muzzle #MeToo", by Leta Hong Fincher, NPR (2/1/18)

Mǐtù 米兔 ("rice rabbit", aka Lepus oryzinus, aka Reishase) — mǐ 米 is also used to transcribe "meter", leading to some flagrant Chinglish mistranslations, e.g.:

"Drawing a line in the noodles" (8/14/11)

So, though the censors may be successful in blocking "MeToo" and its literal translation as "Wǒ yěshì 我也是", the humble mǐtù 米兔 ("rice rabbit") is an effective means for Chinese women to continue to get their message across:  Weibo, Baike, VOA.  In Pinyin we could also write it #MǐTù, #MiTu, #mitu, etc.

"Chinese authorities are hitting back at country’s Me Too campaign" (news.com.au [1/16/18])

"China's #MeToo Moment" (Jiayang Fan, New Yorker [2/1/18])

"Chinese women reveal sexual harassment, but #MeToo movement struggles for air" (Simon Denyer and Amber Ziye Wang, Washington Post [1/9/18])

"In Chinese, how do you say 'me too'?" (Quora)

"Backlash in Hong Kong against the ‘Me Too’ campaign" (Alex Lo, SCMP [12/5/17])

"Shadowsocks" (2/5/18)

"How Feminists in China Are Using Emoji to Avoid Censorship" (Margaret Andersen, WIRED, culture [3/30/18])

[Thanks to Jichang Lulu]


  1. John Rohsenow said,

    February 10, 2018 @ 4:08 pm

    If 草泥馬非馬也; then 米兔非兔也.
    (Once again, with apologies to Zhuangzi)

  2. liuyao said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 1:41 am

    I did not suspect that 米兔 would be the name of an actual animal. I do know that it is a product of smartphone company Xiaomi: a bunny-shaped story reader for children, which is all you'd find if you googled 米兔.

  3. liuyao said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 1:49 am

    Well, I was fooled by the Latin…

  4. Coby Lubliner said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 10:14 am

    Both lepus and Hase mean 'hare', not 'rabbit'.

  5. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 10:34 am

    Coby Lubliner: And Wikipedia lists no rabbit species in China, only hares of the genus Lepus.

    In American English, we could translate mǐtù as "rice jackrabbit".

    I guess what the Chinese see in the full moon is a hare/jackrabbit.

    When I saw "Reishase" in the original post, I thought it was a three-syllable Chinese word, rei-sha-se. Only when I clicked the link did I see it was German Reis-Hase. I wonder whether the syllables that I imagined even exist in Chinese.

  6. Jichang Lulu said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 12:13 pm

    Chinese 兔(子) tù(zi) means both 'rabbit' and 'hare'. (Other Lagomorpha have tù in their name: the pika is 鼠兔 shǔtù (lit. mouse/rat-rabbit/hare), such as the seriously adorable plateau pika (Tibetan ཨ་བྲ་ a bra).) Victor has written about at least one similar issue, the Sheep-Goat Problem ('Year of the ovicaprid').

    This article by CAS biologist Wang Dehua 王德华 discusses the hare-rabbit issue. In scientific nomenclature, the Oryctolagus genus is called 穴兔 xuétù (from xué 'cave, hole', a calque of the Graeco-Latin name). Other genera within Leporidae (hares and rabbits) are called something-tù. There doesn't seem to be a general word for 'Leporidae other than Lepus' (i.e. 'rabbit'), which is why Wang's article uses the English names.

    As for Latin lepus, Pliny saw cuniculus 'rabbit' as a particular case:

    Leporum generis sunt et quos Hispania cuniculos appellat…

    as, in a way, did Linnaeus, whose name for the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) was Lepus cuniculus. I wouldn't say, without qualification, that "lepus means 'hare'".

    The hare in the moon 月兔 yuètù (also 玉兔 yùtù), as in Chinese legend, also occurs in the rich lunar vocabulary derived from Sanskrit śaśa 'hare', a cognate of the English word.

RSS feed for comments on this post