Lifestyle, Stories

The Great Race: How the Chinese Zodiac Signs Found Their Place

There are many legends and myths associated with the Chinese zodiac throughout history, and different versions and stories are prevalent in different locations. So, why were twelve animals included in the Chinese zodiac calendar, and how did the Chinese zodiac order come about? Let’s revisit the most popular version of the story today.

Why was there a race? 

Long ago, The Jade Emperor of China thought that there should be a means to measure time. On his birthday, he announced that there will be a swimming race. The first twelve animals to cross the fast-flowing river would be declared the champions, and each would be assigned a year of the zodiac.

How the rat tricked the ox and took first place 

All of the animals formed a line along the riverbank. The rat and the cat, who were best friends, were concerned since they couldn’t swim. They were astute enough to ask the hardworking ox to transport them across the river. The ox agreed and let them ride on his back. When the ox gained the lead, the rat and cat leaped up and cheered. They were almost there when the rat shoved the cat into the water, leaving him to struggle. The rat won the race by leaping off the ox’s head and onto the bank just as the ox was about to win. The rat was admired by the Jade Emperor, who named the year of the zodiac after him. The unfortunate ox was duped into coming in second place, and the second year of the zodiac was named after him. 

The tiger struggled while the rabbit went with the flow

Shortly later, the tired tiger battled his way back to the riverbank to finish third. Swimming against strong currents across the river had been a huge challenge for him. As a result of his efforts, the emperor named the third year after him. Meanwhile, the rabbit, who hadn’t swum over at all, was the next to arrive. He’d jumped across some stepping stones before discovering a floating log that transported him to land. As a result, the fourth year was named after him by the Emperor. 

The dragon helped the other animals

A benevolent dragon then flew down to grab fifth place. Despite his ability to fly, he did not win the race since he had to assist the other animals in crossing. The emperor was moved by his kindness and named the fifth year of the zodiac after him.

The snake used the horse to get 6th place

The sound of the horse’s hooves was the next thing the Jade Emperor heard. A clever snake suddenly wriggled out from behind one of the horse’s hooves just as he thought the horse would be the next animal to come. The horse was so taken aback that he leaped backward, allowing the snake to claim sixth place in the race. The unlucky horse had to settle for seventh place.

How teamwork made the dream work for the goat, monkey, and rooster

Soon later, a raft came, carrying the goat, monkey, and rooster. They told the Emperor how they had shared the raft that the rooster had discovered. The goat and monkey had pulled the raft to the shore after clearing weeds. The monarch was overjoyed that the animals had collaborated. He then declared that the goat would be the eighth zodiac animal, the monkey would be the ninth, and the rooster would be the tenth.

The dog and pig got distracted along the way

The dog was the next animal to be finished. The Jade Emperor was perplexed as to why the dog was so late given that he was a skilled swimmer. The dog stated that he wanted to take a bath because of the clear water. The Emperor shrugged and named the eleventh year after the dog.  There was just one spot remaining in the zodiac, and the Emperor wondered when the last winner would arrive. Finally, he heard the boar grunt. The boar admitted that he was late because he had eaten and slept while on his journey. Despite this, the Emperor congratulated the boar and named the last year of the zodiac after him. 

The cat did not make it

The cat, who had been thrown into the water by the rat, climbed out, but it was too late to have a year named after him. He was furious with the rat, and cats have never been pals with rats since. 

Following the race, the Chinese Zodiac began a cycle of years named after the aforementioned 12 animals.

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