Why did the rabbit give the tiger a pipe?

Tomorrow begins the holiday for Lunar New Year, one of the two major holidays in Korea. With the new moon will begin the Year of the Rabbit.

I don’t have much to say about what the Year of the Rabbit represents, I thought I’d share a bit of an anecdote from a small temple in downtown Suwon a few weeks ago…

We’d gone into the courtyard to have a space for our baby away from the traffic and crowds for a few minutes. Just as we were about to leave, a monk came down from one of the buildings and motioned us to follow him around to the side of the main hall. He wanted to show us the painting and see what we thought.

Usually, the paintings on a temple wall are depictions of the Buddha’s life, or Zen stories, such as the ten ox herding paintings, but here was a painting of two rabbits offering a pipe to a tiger.

After admiring it for a moment, the monk asked,

“So, why do you think the rabbit is holding the pipe for the tiger?”





10 thoughts on “Why did the rabbit give the tiger a pipe?”

  1. Hi Joseph,

    Great Post! My guess is that the rabbit is not actually giving the tiger the pipe at all. In fact the rabbits may in reality be taking it from him – and thus representing the end of the year of the tiger and the start of the year of the rabbit!

    Happy New year to you – all to all readers of WUaL!

    Marcus _/\_

  2. Kinda reminds me of a painting in the movie “The Edge.”

    “Why is the rabbit smoking a pipe?”
    “Because he’s smarter than the panther”

  3. This painting refers to a folktale where the rabbits distract the tiger with a pipe and offer to teach him how to fish so that he doesn’t have to chase and eat them. It’s just a classic story of how rabbits (peaceful) outsmart a tiger (aggressive). Tigers and rabbits appear often in Korean folk tales.

    However, I was wondering which temple in Suwon this was from? This would be very helpful, thank you.

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