A Children's Bedtime Story of the Chinese Zodiac
How the 12 Years in Chinese Zodiac Got Their Names
You already know that the New Lunar Year or Chinese New Year marks the beginning of a Chinese calendar year and is named after an animal, but do you know how this came about?
A Great Bedtime Story for Kids
As in any folklore, legends, or mythologies, there are many versions of the story. Likewise, there are also many versions of the Chinese Zodiac story. The version that you will be reading is based on the great race. This is probably the best version and is a good bedtime story for the kids.
Invitation to a Grand Race
A long long time ago, before his departure from earth, Buddha decided to have a grand race and all the animals in the kingdom were invited.
Unfortunately only 12 animals showed up at the event. Grateful for their efforts, Buddha rewarded them by naming each year of the Chinese Zodiac calendar after these 12 animals. And it was arranged according to the order of their arrival.
The 12 animals that came for the grand race were a rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
Cat and the Rat
Upon hearing of Buddha's invitation to the grand race, the Cat invited his best friend the Rat to join him, and they agreed to go together.
But the Cat has the habit of waking up late. So, fearing he might miss the grand race, he asked the Rat to wake him up the next morning.
The Rat however, forgot his promise and left without his best friend, the Cat.
Alas, when the Cat finally woke up, it was already too late and did not make it to the race on time. Hence, there was no year in the Chinese Zodiac named after him. This is why till this day, the Cat will always hunt the Rat.
The Cunning Rat
The Rat was actually too excited about the race. That's why he forgot to wake up his friend, the Cat.
Along the way, the Rat saw other animals were in front of him and they all can run much faster. Before the finishing line, there is also a river to cross and it is not a small river!
It is still a long way to go and the Rat is already feeling tired. He is also a poor swimmer. So in order not to fall behind them, he came out with a brilliant idea.
He knows that the Ox is the mightiest swimmer and being a very straightforward animal, will believe in anything. So he pleaded with the Ox to let him ride on its head. He even convinced the Ox that being a small animal, he will not be able to run faster than him.
The Ox, being a kind and straightforward animal agreed to let the Rat ride and swim across together. As they neared the shore, the Rat quickly jumped off the Ox's back and sprint to the finishing line. Hence, the Rat was the first to arrive followed by the Ox.
The first year in the Chinese Zodiac calendar is therefore named after the cunning Rat and the second, after the Ox.
Year of The Tiger
Not far behind is the Tiger. Although the Tiger is a fast animal, he had problem when trying to cross the river.
The heavy current kept pushing him downstream, but with all his might he finally managed to get to shore and came third in the race.
So the third year of Chinese Zodiac calendar is named Year of the Tiger
Year of the Rabbit
Then suddenly the Rabbit appeared. He was all wet and looked very tired. He tried to cross the river by jumping from stone to stone, but lost his balance and was almost drowned.
Fortunately he managed to hold on to a floating log and later got on to shore.
So the fourth year in the Chinese Zodiac calendar is the Year of the Rabbit.
Although the Dragon can fly, he only came in fifth. Apparently he had to slow down as he had to make rain for all the people and all the creatures on earth. And he also saw the poor Rabbit holding on to the floating log, struggling to stay afloat.
So, he puffed and puffed his breath, to push the log to shore. The Rabbit never realized that he was saved by the Dragon. That is why babies born in Year of Rabbit always enjoy good fortune in the Year of Dragon!
The Horse, then the Snake
As soon as the Dragon took his seat next to the Rat, Ox, Tiger and Rabbit, the Horse came charging in.
He thought that he will be the sixth animal to arrive, but he was wrong. Unaware to the Horse, the Snake had clung on to the his leg, and the moment they are about to reach the finishing line, the Snake quickly jumped. At that moment, the Horse, taken by surprised, lunged backward and hence, lost to the Snake who claimed the 6th position.
Then came in the Goat, Monkey and Rooster
Moments later, the Goat, Monkey and Rooster came in almost together.
Just before the Rooster was about to cross the river, he saw the Monkey and the Goat. He managed to convince them to work and help each other to cross the river, rather than doing it individually. So together they make a raft. But it wasn't easy with all three of them on a small raft. They had to push and pull and finally managed to cross the river.
Running to the finishing line, the Goat managed to arrive first followed by Monkey then Rooster.
The Dog then the Pig
Although the Dog is a good swimmer, he came in at the 11th place. He was a playful animal and was splashing around in the water too much, leaving others to overtake him.
Long after all the eleven animals had arrived, the Pig finally appeared. In fact Buddha had given up hope of any more animals arriving when he suddenly heard the oink oink.
The Pig as expected, was hungry and although he was in the race, he decided to stop to eat. He ate too much and grew sleepy and finally dozed off. He was lucky to wake up just in time to come in 12th, the last position.
One rice Thousand gold - An old Chinese fable
Story of How Tiger Got His Stripes
© 2012 Mazlan