There are 12 Chinese zodiac according to traditions, in the order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each sign is symbolized by an animal, and each animal presents its own characteristics.
there is a myth explaining why the 12 Chinese zodiac animals are in the order above? The following story told the reasons, and figured out some of the characteristics of the 12 animals.
The story is widespread and varied among Chinese. Though it is made up, it might be an interesting story to tell at new year’s eve midnight.
The Heavenly Gate Race — Zodiac Rankings
It is said that long, long ago, there was no Chinese zodiac. The Jade Emperor (Ngoc De – The god of heaven) wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards in the year. He sent message into mortal world that the 12 earlier one who went through the Heavenly Gate, will be selected as the guards.
Early Risers: Quick-Witted Rat and Diligent Ox
The next day, thousands of animals set off towards the Heavenly Gate. Rat got up early. On his way to the gate, he encountered a river. He had to stop there because he was not good at swimming. After waiting a long time, Rat saw the Ox about to cross the river and swiftly jumped into Ox’s ear.
The diligent Ox did not mind at all and he continued. After crossing the river, he raced towards the palace’s gate of the Jade Emperor. Suddenly, Rat jumped out of Ox’s ear and put his feet on the line of the Emperor. Rat won the first place and Ox was the second.
Competitive and Fast: Tiger and Rabbit
Tiger and Rabbit came third and fourth because both are so fast and so competitive, but Tiger was a little bit faster.
Good-Looking Dragon and Crafty Snake
Good-looking Dragon was the fifth although he could fly super fast, he stopped to help the human to escape from a great flood. Thanks to this, the Jade Emperor declared that Dragon’s son could be the sixth. But Dragon’s son didn’t come with him that day. Just then, Snake came and claimed that Dragon was his adoptive father; so Snake ranked sixth.
Rooster, Dog and Pig
The three went together but the pig was too fat and too innocent that mistake in the time, the group arrived last.
Effects of the 12 Chinese Zodiac on cultural concept
The Personal Traits
The ranking story above is built up onto people’s understanding of the 12 animals’ characteristic. And when people talk about a person’s zodiac sign, they might think about the zodiac sign’s characteristics.
For example, when talking about Rats, people think of quick-witted people with resourceful traits, and versatile people; but Oxes are, honest, dependable, and hardworking.
More interesting, Chinese people later created guidelines on love compatibility and marriage according to the 12 Chinese zodiac signs e.g. Rat’s best spouse will be Dragon, Rabbit, or Ox.
Why No Cat in the Zodiac — Relationship Between Cat and Rat
In some county such as Vietnam, it’s not rabbit but Cat is on of the Zodiac. In the Chinese zodiac system, a rabbit was chosen. They explained this difference in various way, but the most popular is about the rat-cat enimity.
Although Cat and Rat were neighbors, the Cat always bullied the little Rat, and Rat felt very angry but he was not dare to say it out; therefore, he revenged the Cat. When hearing the Emperor’s decree Rat thought: “This is an opportunity”.
The stupid Cat knocked at the Rat’s door, ordered that Rat had to inform him when he was going to the Emperor party, and Rat pretend to promise that he agreed. When the morning comes, the Rat left quietly without waking up the Cat. Cat didn’t wake up until it was too late, the race was over— he was not able to make it anymore. Since then, a great enmity was raised between Cat and Rat, so that rats always hide when a cat appears. And the Cat swore to revenged the Rat
An alternative version of the story said that Cat and Rat got as far as crossing the river together on the Ox’s head, but Rat dragged Cat into the water (and Cat couldn’t swim and he didn’t get back to the Heavenly Gate in time to get a ranking).
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