The historian said that the three-rabbit symbol found in Iran, as reflected on some metal artifacts and coins, was believed to be brought to Iran by Chinese artists and painters as it perfectly conforms to the ones seen on samples discovered in China in the ancient era, showing the Chinese cultural impact on Iranian culture during the Ilkhanate dynasty (1256-1353).
Among the distinctive features of the three-rabbit symbols in all 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.
The ancient Silk Road led to cultural exchanges between China and Iran, leaving visible marks on today's Iranian cultural tradition, one of which being the 12-animal Zodiac, an Iranian historian said.
"Like in China, the upcoming new year in Iran, which will begin on March 22, is also the Year of the Rabbit," said Salehi. "What's interesting is that throughout the evolution process and history, the animals' concept has entered Iran's culture from China and East Asia."
"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." From the point of view of semiotics and mythology, Salehi said the rabbit symbolizes fertility, instability, swiftness, cleverness and social life.
ANCIENT TURKISH 12-ANIMAL CALENDAR
Besides the three-rabbit image, other rabbit symbols also show cultural exchanges between China and other civilizations. The upcoming Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese lunar calendar reminds Turks of one of their ancient rituals.
The 12-animal Turkish Calendar, derivated from the Chinese lunar calendar, also included the Year of the Rabbit during the ancient times when Turkish tribes widely practiced Shamanism, a religious practice.
Sergen Cirkin, a Turkish archaeologist, told Xinhua that some archaeological findings indicate that the 12-animal calendar was used about 3,200 years ago among Turkish tribes, such as the Scythians.
Turks, under Shamanism, perceived rabbits as spiritual animals acting as messengers and attributed rabbits a distinct value in stopping wars, struggling against evils, hunting and even giving birth to a child, he said.
"Furthermore, we find that the rabbit was a potent divine symbol for Turkish Shamanism, especially when giving birth. We see that an object made of rabbit fur was hanging in a tent where the birth takes place," Cirkin added.
He also noted that the rabbit symbolizes compassion and timidity.
The 12-animal calendar indicated how Chinese and Turkish cultures have intertwined since before Christ, Ahmet Tasagil, head of the History Department at the Istanbul-based Yeditepe University, told Xinhua.
"Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of a unified China reigned during 221 BC-210 BC, had a close relationship with the Northern tribes, who we call the Turkish tribes," explained Tasagil.
"As a result of such close ties, Turks adopted the version of the lunar calendar and called it the 12-animal Turkish calendar," he said.
Un-nefer, or Wenenu means that Osiris will appear after the resurrection in beautiful shape, Tawfik, also former director general of the Grand Egyptian Museum, added.
Egyptians also see rabbits as an animal that brings luck and good future. After buying a car for taxi, Mahmoud Samy, a 55-year-old doorman of a residential building in Maadi district in south-eastern Cairo, hung a necklace of plastic rabbit legs in his car to bring luck and good income.
"Rabbits are famous for their fertility and reproduction, which signifies more money and prevent accidents," he said.
Tawfik explained that both Egyptian and Chinese people believe in speediness and reproduction of rabbits as old civilizations, especially those founded on banks of big rivers like the River Nile in Egypt and the Yangtze River in China, are connected with similarity of nature, and trade relations, even with long distances, brought mutual interaction and influence.