Story of the 12 Animals in Chinese Zodiac

14 12 2006

Whenever Chinese New Year is mentioned, the first thing that comes to the minds of most people is, “What year is this?” This is in reference to the animal representation for that year. The designation is usually explained with a simple story that a long time ago, Buddha called together all the animals to help guard and protect the year. Of all the animals, only twelve answered the call. In order to establish an orderly sequence, a race was called. In the race, the Ox would have taken the honor of taking first place had it not been for the clever and cunning Rat who rode on the back of the Ox and jumped forward at the finish line to steal away the top award.

The Tournament of the Twelve Animals

The Jade Emperor wanted to select twelve animals to represent the different years as totems. Hearing this, all the animals on earth rushed to the call with each desiring to be selected. Finding no suitable method on which to base his selection, the Jade Emperor decided to have a tournament of physical skills and abilities.

The Jade Emperor appointed the Elephant to be the undisputed judge of this tournament. The elephant was known for his calmness, great moral virtue and conduct. His judgment was principled and fair and because of this he is highly respected by all the animals.

When this tournament and its rules were announced, the Cat heard about it and went to tell this to the Rat. In earlier times, both the Cat and the Rat were very close friends. The Cat told the Rat that he was eligible to compete because being an animal was the only necessary qualification. When the Rat arrived, he saw that there was already a mighty strong brown Ox poised on the tournament platform welcoming all challengers.

The brown Ox was both large in size and extremely mighty. He thought little of having the tiny Rat as his opponent. He was over confident as he stood boldly on the tournament platform. Readying himself for the battle, the Ox raised his front legs and pawed and scratched on the ground as he was prepared to stomp on the Rat and flatten him into a small meat patty. However, the Rat was light in weight and quick and agile in movement so that he was successful in side-stepping the charging Ox. The Rat jumped onto his feet and catapulted himself onto the back of the Ox. The Ox was helpless to this attack and the pain inflicted caused him to scream out with an admission of defeat. The judge had no alternative than to award the Rat with the coveted First prize. The Ox was embarrassed and speechless to have lost to the Rat.

The rest of the animals battled one another, and this is how the ranking of the twelve animals came to be: (1)Rat, (2)Ox, (3)Tiger, (4)Hare, (5)Dragon, (6)Snake, (7)Horse, (8)Ram, (9)Monkey, (10)Rooster, (11)Dog, (12)Boar.

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28 responses to “Story of the 12 Animals in Chinese Zodiac”

26 09 2010
Emliy (10:45:59) :

intressting story. but what happend to the cat. i wnat to know the really story about the cat, do you know it ???

22 11 2010
Cat (14:40:45) :

The cat got 13th.

31 01 2011
Erica (23:16:55) :

@ Emily:
The cat & the rat were friends.
A day (or several hours) before the race started, the cat was really tired. Before he went to sleep, he asked the rat if he could wake him up. The rat promised that.
However, when the cat woke up, the race had already over.
The cat got mad at the rat, so he cheated after him, ate him and they became enemies.

14 02 2011
L (11:42:39) :

That poor cat, and rat as well. I know it was wrong of him not to wake up the cat, but…. isn’t that going just a BIT too far?

9 03 2011
CC (08:27:11) :

The story of the Chinese Zodiac is so interesting. I’ve heard people tell it to me a lot of times.

2 04 2011
ale (08:07:18) :

i was told that there was a festival and only 12 animals were invited the rat ox tiger hare dragon snake horse sheep monkey rooster dog boar to the next day there was a festival the rat put a trick to the cat and told him it was the day after that andwhile the poor cat was asleep snuguling in his bed there was a grand festival well theres always diffrent stories around the world

19 06 2011
Tom (01:50:47) :

I always cried because the cat never had any friends with the zodiac animals, according to my mom :/

22 01 2012
Junnell (18:58:34) :

lol, you guys are so funny! Its only a legend. Stories past down through generations. Be logical for a moment…do you really believe that these animals competed against each other? Seriously? I will admit it is a very interesting story…Keyword: Story. Im pretty sure the rat didn’t let the cat sleep on purpose and the cat eat the rat out of revenge. Im sure the cat was just hungry and ate the rat. But all that does not matter…Im the OX and I can totally live with second place :)

30 01 2012
Emily (04:15:23) :

Emm this story is not it full detail, very crappy if you ask me…

20 05 2012
Anna (19:54:46) :

You know what, I think the rat is very tricky. I read all of its stories and all ended up rat winning because of cheating. He’s kind of cruel,too to do that to his best friend, the cat. I think i know how cat felt when his very own best friend betrayed him. :(

20 05 2012
Anna (19:59:31) :

I know it’s just a story and it is very logical for you to say it is just a legend but many people have different beliefs so let’s just leave it like that.

25 05 2012
paige (08:14:59) :

Even though i’m a leo I root for the cat , it wasn’t right that the rat did that but it didn’t end badly the cat got his oun holiday “the day of the cat”. so <3

30 07 2012
Ashley (05:18:28) :

The real story of the chinese zodiac is that god decided to have a banquet to celebrate the year and he invited all the animals to come and join him, (1)Rat, (2)Cat, (3)Tiger, (4)Hare, (5)Dragon, (6)Snake, (7)Horse, (8)Ram, (9)Monkey, (10)Rooster, (11)Dog, (12)Boar, (13)Ox.Anyway the party was supposed start the following evening, but the rat decided to play a trick of the cat, he told the cat that party was the day after tomorrow. the next day all the animals went to the banquet with the rat riding on the Ox back. Everyone had a wonderful time except for the cat who was foolish for believing the rat. That’s why the cat was never accepted into the Chinese Zodiac.

25 08 2012
kyoalover (20:40:36) :

I was told that there was a banquet and and all the Zodiac animals including the cat were invited, but the rat told the cat that it was the day after tomarrow. So the cat stayed home, but when the cat found out it was yesterday he was sad and lonley. He was very angry at the rat, because he didn’t get to be part of the Zodiac.

22 09 2012
kellie (01:06:13) :

This is very interesting,
I heard a different story but this is good as-well.
Each year is not only a new animal, it’s a new element:
water, fire, earth, metal and wood.
every 60 years there’s the same animal with the same element, for an example:
(it’s true) Me and my dad have a 60 year difference. we are both “Metal Dragons”.
we were both born on 10/10 and we have 5 minute difference too.
Why 60 years difference? Well it’s simple really: 12 (animals) 5 (elements)= 12×5= 60. And it’s sad that they left out the cat, it’s not nice.

24 10 2012
rory (12:46:10) :

what is the real story

13 01 2013
Yuki Sohma (13:27:02) :

Yeah Ik how the cat feels…..Too

13 01 2013
Yuki Sohma (13:29:01) :

The rat might have a explaination for doing so he may have don’t it because the cats just 1 to get angery alot

28 01 2013
valeria (17:11:17) :

sweet

18 02 2013
Andrew Swan (05:19:51) :

The 12 animals and 5 elements, as a base for numbers can be traced through history. Sumarians (later Babylonians also) use the number 60 as their base number. The equalateral triangle was their favorite for architecture and this has 60 degree angles. 60 is divisable by so many numbers (1,2,3,4,5,6,12,15,30) too making it easy to caculate amounts. They traded a lot and as the hand was used to count some say that 12 became important number. The first clocks used divisions of 12 (babylon).

The kids story we tell is just the open invite from Budha and only 12 showed up. In their order. The 5 elements is excellent for introducing maths, science, history and well just about anything you want into the curiousity that goes with Chinese New Year and culture.

1 04 2013
Torhu Honda (20:20:34) :

That makes since, but still i’m truely sorry for the cat. i mean how was he to know that his best friend would delibrately lied to him. Well, i didnt much care for the chinese zodiac until i watched Friuts Basket, and l love the there verion. Im glad im the year of the dog and not the rat.

6 08 2013
Bob (02:40:22) :

Whats the morale of this legend?

6 08 2013
Bob (02:40:41) :

Whats the morale of this legend??

29 11 2013
Barry (20:41:03) :

That’s weird how did the rabbit beat the dragon in the battle? Was the dragon overwhelmed by the rabbits cuteness and surrendered?

31 01 2014
Anonymous (16:53:53) :

@Barry The dragon didn’t make it because ti had to stop along to the way to make rain for the villagers.

9 02 2014
hi (17:09:45) :

Good story!!!!!11

9 02 2014
hi (17:23:44) :

What was the date when the jade emporer birthday to tell the animals that theres a race? was there a specific time when they did it?

Thanks! And please reply quick

10 02 2014
hi (20:47:48) :

Why did the jade emperor only picked 12 animals?

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