The Origin of the 12 Animal Symbols A Chinese Legendary Story By: Marlon Chen Feb. 11, 2010
Rat OX Tiger Rabbit Dragon Snake Horse Sheep Monkey Rooster Dog Pig
Long long ago, people didn’t know how to measure time - days, months and years. Therefore, they came to Jade Emperor (the most superior God) and asked for help.
Jade Emperor thought that the animals were the best friends of people. They lived together and had a very intimate relationship. He though if we used the animals to name the years, it would be easier for people to memorize.
Therefore, Jade Emperor decided to hold a race on his birthday. The first 12 animals that finished first would be selected to name the 12 months.
He thought that this not only increased interest, but also tested the animals’ intelligence and determination. Jade Emperor purposely set the destination at the other side of a river.
The cat and the rat were good friends; they slept and played together. However, both of them were the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom. They decided that the best and fastest way to cross the river was to hop on the back of the ox.
The ox, being a naive and good-natured animal, agreed to carry them across. When the ox reached the middle of the river, the rat came up with a very evil intention. In order to win, the rat promptly pushed the cat into the river.
The river was roaring and rushing. So, the ox wasn’t aware that the cat was falling into the water. After the ox had crossed the river, the rat jumped ahead and reached the shore first, and he claimed first place in the competition. The generous ox was put in 2nd place without any complaint.
Jade Emperor questioned the tiger, ”A strong animal like you, why did you come so late.” With heavy panting, the tiger explained that there were heavy currents pushing him downstream all the time. After the ox, came the tiger and was named the 3rd animal in the race.
Suddenly, from a distance came a running noise, and the rabbit arrived. He said that the currents flushed him away and he was lucky enough to grab hold of a floating log and was washed to shore. For that, it became the 4th animal in the zodiac cycle.
Coming in 5th place was the flying dragon. Jade Emperor was curious that a strong and flying creature would fail to reach first. The dragon explained that he had to stop and make rain to help all the people and creatures of the earth, and therefore he was held back a little.
Besides, on his way to the finish line, he saw a little helpless rabbit clinging onto a log. So he gave a puff of breath to the poor rabbit so that it could land on the shore. The Jade Emperor was very pleased with the actions of the dragon, and he was added into the 5th zodiac cycle.
A galloping sound was heard, and the horse appeared. Hidden on the horse's hoof was the snake, whose sudden appearance gave the horse a fright, thus making it fall back and giving the snake the 6th spot, while the horse placed 7th.
Not long after, the sheep, monkey, and rooster came to the river. The rooster spotted a raft, and took the other two animals with it. Together, the sheep and the monkey cleared the weeds, tugged and pulled and finally got the raft to the shore.
Because of their combined efforts, the Emperor was very pleased and promptly named the sheep as the 8th creature, the monkey as the 9th, and the rooster the 10th.
The 11th animal was the dog. The dog was supposed to be the best swimmer among the rest. However, he wanted a good bath after a long trip, and the fresh water from the river was a big temptation. For that, he almost didn't make it to finish line on time.
Then came a little pig with an oink and squeal. The pig got hungry during the race, so he stopped for a feast and then fell asleep. After a nap, the pig continued the race and was named the 12th and last animal of the zodiac cycle.
Since then, the cat vowed to be the natural enemy of the rat forever, and this is the reason why cats hate water. As for the poor soaking wet cat, he hardly managed to get to shore. Unfortunately, it was too late (thirteenth) to win any place in the calendar.
What Animal Sign are you? 子 (Zi) means seed, fruit, root and inheritance. It represents due north, the eleventh Chinese lunar month, when many animals begin to hibernate, and 11 PM to 1 AM, when the rat is most active. Rat (1924 - 1936 - 1948 - 1960 - 1972 - 1984 - 1996 - 2008) Characteristics: Imaginative, Charming, Quick-tempered, Critical Compatible With: Dragons, Monkeys Avoid: Horses Good Career Choices: Writer, Critic, Publicist, Musician Famous Rats: Wolfgang Mozart, William Shakespeare, George Washington, Plato, Peter Tchaikovsky.
OX (1925 - 1937 - 1949 - 1961 - 1973 - 1985 - 1997) Characteristics: Alert, Stubborn, Methodical Compatible With: Snakes, Roosters Avoid: Sheep Good Career Choices: Artist, General, Hair Stylist Famous Oxen: Walt Disney, Clark Gable, Richard Nixon, Johann Sebastian Bach, Charles Chaplin, Vincent Van Gogh
Tiger (1926 - 1938 - 1950 - 1962 - 1974 - 1986 - 1998) Characteristics: Short-tempered, Suspicious, Adventurous, Sensitive, emotional, Risk-taking Compatible With: Horses, Dogs Avoid: Monkeys Good Career Choices: Boss, Explorer, Race-car driver, Artist Famous Tigers: Queen Elizabeth II, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, Marco Polo, Beethoven
Rabbit (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 Characteristics: Ambitious, Affectionate, Cooperative, Friendly, Overly sentimental Compatible With: Sheep, Pigs Avoid: Roosters Good Career Choices: Artist, Scientist, Famous Rabbits: Michelangelo, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie
Dragon (1928 - 1940 - 1952 - 1964 - 1976 - 1988 - 2000) Characteristics: Energetic, Short-tempered, Stubborn, Honest, Sensitive, Trust-worthy, Popular, Intelligent Compatible With: Monkeys, Rats Avoid: Dogs Good Career Choices: Priest, Artist, Writer Famous Dragons: Joan of Arc, Pearl Buck, Sigmund Freud, John Lennon, Florence Nightingale
Snake (1929 - 1941 - 1953 - 1965 - 1977 - 1989 - 2001) Characteristics: Vain, Selfish, Charitable, Romantic, Charming, Stingy, Self-reliant Compatible With: Roosters, Oxen Avoid: Pigs Good Career Choices: Teacher, Philosopher, Writer, Famous Snakes: Charles Darwin, Elizabeth I, Picasso, Anne Frank, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln
Horse (1930 - 1942 - 1954 - 1966 - 1978 - 1990 - 2002) Characteristics: Popular, Cheerful, Skilled with money matters, Hard-working, Impatient, Independent Compatible With: Tigers, Dogs Avoid: Rats Good Career Choices: Scientist, Adventurer, Politician, Famous Horses: Thomas Edison, Davy Crockett, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Sandra Day O'Connor, Rembrandt, Teddy Roosevelt
Sheep (1931 - 1943 - 1955 - 1967 - 1979 - 1991 - 2003) Characteristics: Wise, Gentle, Compassionate, Charming, Elegant, materialistic, Pessimistic Compatible With: Rabbits, Pigs Avoid: Oxen Good Career Choices: Writer, Gardener, Psychiatrist Famous Sheep: Mark Twain, Rudolph Valentino, Barbara Walters, Orville Wright
Monkey (1932 - 1944 - 1956 - 1968 - 1980 - 1992 - 2004) Characteristics: Intelligent, Good memory, Popular Compatible With: Dragons, Rats Avoid: Tigers Good Career Choices: Anything! The monkey will almost always be successful. Famous Monkeys: Julius Caesar, Eleanore Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, Harry S. Truman, Leonardo da Vinci
Rooster (1933 - 1945 - 1957 - 1969 - 1981 - 1993 - 2005) Characteristics: Hard-working, Shrewd, Bold, Boastful Compatible With: Snake, Oxen Avoid: Rabbits Good Career Choices: Philosopher, Writer Famous Roosters: Confucius, Catherine the Great, Amelia Earhart, Rudyard Kipling (a British author and poet ), Groucho Marx
Dog (1934 - 1946 - 1958- 1970 - 1982 - 1994 - 2006) Characteristics: Honest, Faithful, Loyal, Trust-worthy, Sharp-tongued Compatible With: Horses, Tigers Avoid: Dragons Good Career Choices: Leader, Teacher, Business people Famous Dogs: Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Bill Clinton, George Gershwin, Jane Goodall, Golda Meir
Pig (1935 - 1947 - 1959 - 1971 - 1983 - 1995 - 2007) Characteristics: Honest, Tolerant, Thirsty for knowledge Well-informed, Avoid confrontation, Naive Compatible With: Sheep, Rabbits Avoid: Snakes Good Career Choices: Entertainers, Lawyers, Writers Famous Pigs: Ernest Hemingway, Julie Andrews, Ronald Reagan, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Schweitzer,