Despite many of us considering them to be pets, with the immense power they wield over humans and their near total domination of the internet, cats are clearly the ones in charge. They appear with such frequency in ancient Egyptian iconography that many have wondered whether the Egyptians knew something about cats that we don’t, and no matter how many treats we give the felines we share our homes with, they just never seem to accept us as equals, let alone their masters.

And now, a photo of an ancient set of Chinese characters has given internet users in China even more reason to believe that cats were once the true rulers of the world. Behold: kanji characters depicting cats with ninja headbands!

Chinese characters have a history that stretches back longer than some Western civilisations. Meaning-based characters, or logograms, they can be read entirely differently depending on their context and the characters that precede and follow them, and over time they have been altered and simplified to such a degree that it can be difficult to discern the things that they were originally intended to represent.

▼ Kanji were once far more complex and less angular than today’s characters

kanjiImage: Sljfaq

This week, one particular set of ancient Chinese characters has become a hot topic over on China’s Weibo social networking service, but not because of their beauty or complexity. Rather, netizens simply cannot believe how much like cats these characters look.


The above kanji character – shown in numerous stages of evolution – apparently represents a large, tripod kettle. Often made of bronze, these cauldron-like pots were used for cooking, and later ceremonies, in China and were brought over to Japan years later where they become known as “kanae”.

Now that we compare these Chinese characters – particularly those on the bottom row – with the below photo of an actual bronze kettle, we think it’s a pretty good pictorial representation, even if you do have to squint a bit.

kanaePhoto: Liu Ding/Wikimedia

That said, we are children of the digital age and, blessed with our very own cultural treasures such as Nyan Cat and Hello Kitty, we can’t help seeing something a little different when we look at this kanji character; to us, it just screams ‘ninja neko’. We know that earlier kanji were often much more curved and, being hand-drawn, looked a lot cuter, but take a look at this image showing the evolution of this character, particularly the first two, and tell us that you don’t see a cat wearing a headband.



No? Maybe if we add in a few more brushstrokes…


We’re clearly not alone on this one as Chinese net users, too, are obsessed with how feline this character appears, taking to their keyboards with such comments as:

“That. Is too cute.”
“That’s a cat. No doubt about it.”
“How have I never noticed this before?”
“So cats really did rule the world!?”
“Humans are their slaves.”

What do you think, guys and girls, will it be long before the next cat uprising? Thank goodness we never tried to put them on leashes like we do dogs…

Source: Sina Weibo, Kanji Dictionary (Chinese)

[ Read in Japanese ]