The Chinese Zodiac

On February 8th this year, people in China, and Chinese people all around the world, will be celebrating Chinese new year. This year is the year of the monkey; last year was the year of the Goat. But how did the Chinese Zodiac come about?

Once upon a time the Emperor invited all the animals to take part in a race, and he said that the first 12 animals to cross the finishing line would become part of the Chinese Zodiac. At the time the rat and the cat were the best of friends, and they agreed that they would go together. However on the day, the rat was so excited when he woke up that he forgot to wake the cat and he set off without him. Since then rats and cats have been sworn enemies, and whenever a cat sees a rat it will chase it away.

The rest of the animals lined up for the race across the river. On The Emperor’s command they jumped into the river and began to swim.

Everyone thought that the dragon would come first because he could fly, but he actually came in fourth. He said this was because he had stopped along the way to help some villagers, and he had also slowed down to help the rabbit, who he had spotted clinging to a log and in danger of drowning.  The rabbit actually ended up finishing the race before the dragon!

The tricky rat asked the ox if he could ride on his back and he promised to sing to him as a payment for this. The kind ox agreed and as he was so strong he was the first to reach the other side of the river. He thought he would win and be the first sign of zodiac but the tricky rat jumped off his back at the last minute to cross the finishing line in front of him. The powerful tiger came in just behind the ox.

The snake was just as tricky as the rat! He wrapped himself around the horse’s foot to get a ride and then when the finish line was in sight, he suddenly appeared in front of the horse. The startled horse fell back and the snake crossed the finishing line ahead of him.

The rooster, the monkey and the sheep worked together and helped each other to get across the river by making a raft and paddling it together.

Unsurprisingly, the dog loved being in the water so much that he stopped to splash around and play, so he was one of the last to arrive back.

At the end of the day when it looked as though no more animals were going to appear at the finishing line, the pig crawled across. He had set out quite quickly, but then along the way he stopped to have something to eat and then, with a full belly, he fell asleep, waking just in time to cross the finishing line before the Emperor when home.

And so the final order of the zodiac is this:

  1. rat
  2. ox
  3. tiger
  4. rabbit
  5. dragon
  6. snake
  7. horse
  8. goat
  9. monkey
  10. rooster
  11. dog
  12. pig

Related posts: Chinese New Year   Year of the Goat