The Legend of the Chinese Zodiacs

The Legend of the Chinese Zodiacs

Stephanie Zhang, Staff Writer

The Chinese New Year is a time when family members can gather together to hold a big, celebratory feast and exchange red envelopes. Following the lunar calendar, the Chinese New Year occurs on a different day every year, usually in January or February. This year, it falls on February 5th. Most people know that each year is devoted to a particular animal from the Chinese zodiac. The zodiac animals follow a 12-year cycle in this respective order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. This year is the year of the Pig. What most people don’t know is how these animals became the zodiac animals.

A long, long time ago in China, the Jade Emperor (the King of the Heavens) decided that there should be a way for people to measure time in a 12 year period. Therefore, he called up all the animals across China for a race passing through thick forests and a wide river, where the first twelve winners would be able to have a year named after them. At the time, two contestants, the Cat, and the Rat were actually very good friends. They decided to win the race together by asking if they could hitch a ride on the Ox if they let the Ox get first place. The Ox agreed, but while they were crossing the river, the Rat betrayed its friend and pushed the Cat into the river. Then, when the Ox finally crossed the river, the Rat jumped off and raced across the finish line first, with the Ox following at a close second.

The Tiger, who struggled with the river, pulled through and became the third zodiac sign. Meanwhile, the Rabbit placed fourth, by hopping across some rocks and boulders in the river. Then, the strong and powerful dragon, which was expected to come first, flew in at fifth place, talking about how it took a quick detour to put out a fire in a village. The Horse came galloping in, expecting to place sixth but did not expect the cunning snake, who secretly hitched a ride. Surprised, the horse reared back, allowing the Snake to be named the sixth zodiac sign while it got the seventh.

Next, a trio made of the Sheep, Monkey, and Rooster worked together to finish the race. At the river, the Rooster found a raft and the three worked together to cross the river and place eighth, ninth and tenth respectively. The Dog, usually a fast and strong swimmer, became the tenth zodiac sign after playing around in the water. Finally, our lovely Piggy, this year’s zodiac sign, placed twelfth. He was late because he was busy eating and sleeping, but woke up just in time to finish the race.

This is the legend of the twelve Chinese zodiacs eagerly awaited and celebrated every year by Chinese families all over the globe.