The Chinese Zodiac Animals Story

Do you know the origin of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs? Why are there twelve zodiac animal signs? Why is the little rat ranked first in the zodiac? In China, there are many versions of the legend about the zodiac, one of these is a very interesting legend as the following story, which was closely related to the birthday of the Jade Emperor (the Chinese equivalent to Zeus). 

Jade Emperor

According to legend, ancient people didn’t know how to count years and measure time, so people asked the Jade Emperor for help. The Jade Emperor felt that animals and people are most closely related. If twelve animals are used as the names of the years, which should be easy to remember.

However, there are so many animals on the ground, how to choose twelve animals? The Jade Emperor decided to hold an animal race across the river on his birthday. The first twelve animals to reach the finish line will be rewarded by having a year named after them.

When the news of the race was announced, all the animals talk about the race in hopes of winning the race. After receiving the notice from the Jade Emperor, the rat and cat are excited. At that time, cats and rats were best friends, they follow each other like bodies and shadows.

The rat said, “I really want to run ahead and be listed in the Chinese zodiac signs, but I’m small and I’m not very good at swimming. What should I do?”

The cat said: “Since we are small and can’t run fast, we should start early. I know that the cow usually gets up before dawn. On that day, if we ask the cow to wake us, maybe we can run ahead.”

The rat clapped his hands and jumped up and squeak, “Great! Just do it!”

On the day of the Jade Emperor’s birthday, before dawn and the rooster crowing, the kind cow came to wake the mouse and cat, and the cow said with a smile, “Looking at how sleepy you are, why don’t you climb on my back? Come up, I’ll take you all together.”

The rat and cat jumped on the warm cow’s back and slept comfortably again. When they woke up, the day had just dawned, but the cow, rat and cat had already reached the river. The cat stretched a lot on the back of the cow, and said pleased: “We’ll reach the riverbank soon. It seems that the three of us are running faster than the others.”

The rat was thinking in his heart: It’s good to run first, but how can I run ahead of the cat and the cow and get first place? The selfish and cunning rat came up with a bad idea. When the cow swam to the middle river, the rat pretended to be close to the cat, and said affectionately, “Brother cat, we almost reach the river, look at how beautiful the scenery around you!”

“Really, so beautiful!” The cat replied and looked around. At this moment, the rat pushed hard, the cat can’t sit still anymore and fell into the river. “Ha, ha…” The rat couldn’t help laughing.

Ox Rabbit and Cat
Ox Rabbit and Cat

The cow noticed that the weight on his back was lighter, and when he looked back, he found that many animals were crossing the river one after another.

The cow hastened to speed, unaware that the cat had fallen into the water, and the cunning rat had already slid into the cow’s ears.

The cow quickly crossed the river. Seeing that he was about to get first place, he was very happy. Suddenly, a black mass jumped out of his ear. The cow was stunned, stopped and took a closer look. Ah, it was a rat! The rat took the opportunity to run forward desperately. When the cow just understood what had happened, the rat had already run to the finish line and won first place.

The Jade Emperor was surprised to see that the rat arrived first. He asked, “Rat, you can’t swim, and you can’t run fast, how did you arrive first?”

The rat said triumphantly, “Although I am small, I am smart, of course, I deserve to be the first!” The Jade Emperor nodded. “The first year of the zodiac will be named after you.” 

In the blink of an eye, the cow also arrived and won second place. But he kept yelling “moo, moo” at the cow, looking very unhappy. After a while, the exhausted tiger ran over, all wet, and roared confidently: “Am I the number one?”

“No, I’m number one. Your strength is useless! Be like me…” The rat replied rudely, so the tiger and the rat quarrelled.

Jade Emperor with dragon

Suddenly, a gust of wind blew up in the sky, and a giant dragon descended from the sky. Just as the dragon was about to reach the end, a little rabbit jumped and quickly ran to the Jade Emperor and got fourth. So the dragon takes fifth place.

“How come you didn’t win the race; you could fly across?” the Emperor asked the dragon curiously. “I could have arrived very early, but I set out after a rain in the east, so I wasted time.” A dragon is an animal responsible for rainfall in the sky and has a strong sense of responsibility. She answered the Jade Emperor seriously. 

Chinese Zodiac - Rabbit

And how about the rabbit? While the rabbits can’t swim, she jumped over the river by stepping on other animals. 

After a while, they heard the sound of hooves and saw a lot of dust on the road, and vaguely saw horses, goats, monkeys, roosters and dogs running desperately. The horse ran at the front, looking at the finish line. Suddenly, he heard a voice. “I’m here, I’m here first.” It turned out that a big snake sprang out of the grass.

Chinese Zodiac - Snake

The arrival of the snake caused panic, and the rat and rabbits hid in fear. The snake said, “I usually like to eat rats and rabbits, but today I came here especially to participate in the Jade Emperor competition. Don’t worry, I won’t eat you.”

The horse neigh neighed happily as soon as it arrived. “What rank position did I get?” “Seventh place, you are lucky.” The rat hurriedly replied. 

Chinese Zodiac - Horse

Soon the old goat, the monkey and the big rooster arrived. “Hey, why did the three of you come together?” the rat asked. The old goat said slowly: “We picked up a piece of the raft by the river, sat on it, and cooperated as a team to get across.” 

Chinese Zodiac - Dog

“Woof, woof.” The naughty dog also came. The Emperor asked,” What took you so long cause you’re such a good swimmer?” The dog should have arrived a long time ago. Just Because he larks around, he took a bath in the river and wastes time. In the end, the dog only got eleventh place.

The game is almost over, most animals have arrived, and the Emperor had their eyes on the horizon, waiting for the last animal to appear.  Everyone craned their necks and looked around. After a while, they heard the sound of pigs oinking. It’s strange, why did the laziest pig come here?

Chinese Zodiac - Pig

“Is there something delicious?” the pig asked panting. When everyone heard it, they all held their stomachs and laughed and said, “What a glutton!”

Anyway, the pig finished twelfth. The Jade Emperor solemnly announced the result of the competition: “The ranking of the zodiac is: Rat, Cow, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake…” Before he could finish speaking, the cat hurriedly arrived. He was soaking wet soaked all over and looked very embarrassed. As soon as he came, he quickly asked, “What rank position do I get? “

The Jade Emperor said kindly: “You’re too late to have a year named after you.” When the cat heard this, he was furious, and shouted, “It’s all caused by the evil rat, I want to eat him.” Claw out. The Jade Emperor hurriedly stopped it, but the cat desperately couldn’t bear it and rushed towards the rat. The rat knew that he has betrayed the cat, and was ashamed and afraid, so he squeaked and hid under the Jade Emperor’s chair.

Crazy Cat

Although the rat won the competition and was listed first in the Chinese zodiac, he was very nervous, and afraid that the cat would come to him for revenge at any time. The cat was very angry at the rat and vowed to hunt the rat down. From then on, when the rat saw the shadow of the cat, it ran away and even hid in the hole during the day and did not dare to come out. Since then, cats have disliked water and rats. This is also explained why cats and rats are natural enemies.

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