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Wanna Buy a Rabbit? Then You’ll Need a Horse To Go With It.

It all started with the rabbit. Taking a bike ride through the old city on the weekend, we screeched to a halt next to an old guy in a cloth cap, wrinkled and surrounded by a cloud of cigarette smoke, selling a bunch of old stuff from the footpath, laid out on sheets of newspaper. Usually there are a few jade pieces, a couple of bits of old porcelein, and some Mao-era tin badges. But what we’d both spotted simultaneously, Matt and I, was a lovely little bronze rabbit’s head, a perfect fit in Matt’s large hands. He knows his bronze, does Matt, having run a bronze foundry for twenty years, and this little rabbit looked well-made and nicely finished.
It was likely a copy of an original antique, but that didn’t matter so much as the fact that it looked lovely and was well crafted. How much? we asked. By now, a small crowd of onlookers was getting in on the action too. 1200 yuan. 1200 yuan??!! What?? 
We were having a lost in translation moment, because the next thing that happened was another eleven animals came out of a non-desript box filled with newspaper. First a horse, then a monkey, a snake, a dog and so on. Aha. It’s a set of Chinese zodiac animals – the rabbit was on display only because it’s the Year of the Rabbit. You can’t buy just one, because a set of eleven is worthless. What he had been trying to tell me was that we could buy one, or all twelve, but the price would be the same – 1200 yuan.   
So we did what any good bargain hunter would do. After intending to buy a single, small bronze rabbit, we came home with twelve bronze animal heads. They’re really quite lovely, but they weigh a ton! See if you can name all twelve.

Top to bottom, left to right: monkey, rooster, horse, snake, pig, goat, dragon, dog, ox, tiger, rat, rabbit

  • frances t

    Absolutely beautiful. But what was the final price? Did you bargain as well as you did in Xian, or were you so enamoured with the zodiac bronzes that you did not bargain at all??? Hard to imagine.

  • Jen @ Tiny Urban Kitchen

    LOL, that's is too funny that you had to buy all 12!

  • Fiona

    Frances, the final price was decided by the gathered crowd, who all felt 1000yuan (about $150) was fair for us. And he delivered them to our house, beating us home by about half an hour apparently, when we arrived back on our bikes. He must know a shortcut….