The Chinese traditional culture is rich and full of mysteries. Have you heard some of the ancient stories behind the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac?
A long time ago, the Jade Emperor who ruled Heaven celebrated his birthday. Unfortunately, at that time there was no way to count the years and he couldn't be sure how old he was. So he decided to create a method for counting years.
He sent his servant into the forest to announce that there would be a contest between the animals, with a special prize for the first 12 winners. When the animals heard the news they wondered what the prize would be.
Ancient Story About The 12 Animals Of The Chinese Zodiac
On the day of the race, the Jade Emperor arrived in a golden chariot. As he prepared his voice to speak, the animals fell silent.
"There will be a race across the river. The first 12 animals to reach the opposite bank will have a year named after them. The first year will be named after the first animal to cross the water, and so on," the Jade Emperor said.
On the day of the race, all the animals lined up at the starting line. When the signal was given the animals rushed towards the river. The first animals to reach the river were the cat and the rat, but they soon realized that the distance was more significant than they thought. In fact, it seemed to be quite dangerous. They stood still and thought about what to do when the ox arrived.
Suddenly the rat had an idea. "Hey, ox, do you want to cross the river for us?" he asked. The ox was a gentle animal and immediately agreed.
The cat and the rat jumped on the ox's head and together they crossed the river. Just as they were about to reach land on the opposite bank, the rat immediately jumped over the head of the ox to land on the bank to finish first!
"Congratulations!" said the emperor. "The first year will be named after you." The ox was furious at being cheated, but being the second animal to cross the water he got the second year.
It was some time before the tiger arrived, exhausted after a difficult swim. The emperor was delighted with his efforts and named the third year after him.
The tiger was followed by the rabbit, which surprised the emperor: "Everyone knows that rabbits can't swim. Surely you cheated!"
The rabbit explained that it was true, that he couldn't swim, but he managed to cross the river by jumping on stones and floating on a log. This impressed the emperor who granted him his fourth year.
The Jade Emperor was delighted with what he had seen so far. All the animals showed great ingenuity to cross the river, but he had expected the dragon to win easily since it could fly and swim. Yet the dragon was nowhere to be seen. Just then a shadow fell over the animals as the dragon landed on the ground.
"You have finally arrived. Where have you been?" the emperor asked.
"I had to bring the rain and then I saw a rabbit crossing the river on a log and so I had to create wind to help him," said the dragon.
"Very good. You are the fifth animal so you get the fifth year," said the Jade Emperor.
The animals that crossed the river gathered on the river bank and watched the rest of the participants swimming. Before long, the horse came into view. The horse was paddling furiously and just as it was about to touch dry land a snake slithered under its hooves. The horse was so surprised that he froze and allowed the snake to cross the line for sixth place. The horse got the seventh place and was happy with that too.
Then the most amazing sight of an amazing day could be seen - a rooster, a monkey, and a goat traveling together on a raft. The rooster found the raft and the other two animals helped navigate. When they finally reached the opposite shore, the emperor was delighted: "I've never seen such teamwork!" and so he awarded the goat the 8th year, the monkey the 9th, and the rooster the 10th.
Then there was a long pause until the next animal arrived. The Jade Emperor began to wonder if the other animals would make it across the water and whether the challenge was too difficult. But he didn't have to worry because just then the dog appeared, approaching the bank. The dog explained that the water was very clear and he couldn't resist taking a dip in it. The emperor laughed and awarded him his 11th year.
So it remained to be seen which animal would take the last place. The animals were discussing the subject when the pig appeared on the bank, winning the 12th year. The trumpet players accompanying the emperor started to play the music and then the emperor spoke.
"Congratulations to all the animals who made it across the river today. Your names will be remembered forever because of your amazing efforts today," he said.
But what happened to the cat that sat on the ox's head? The rat pushed it rudely into the water and it was pushed back to the other bank. From that day on, cats and rats were enemies.
The Animals Selected To Guard The Palace
There is another story known to the Han Chinese about the 12 animals. It is said that the Yellow Emperor (2697-2599 BC) announced the selection of 12 animals to be palace guards.
Many animals were interested and registered in the competition. The cat asked the rat to register his name but the rat forgot. So the cat was not able to participate in the competition. The cat hated the rat for this and they have since become enemies.
The elephant came to join the competition but the rat slipped into its long trunk and chased it away. During the competition, the ox was in the lead. So the rat climbed on the ox's back and jumped the finish line first. The ox took second place. The tiger, who was called the king of the mountain, reached the finish just after the ox.
The rabbit jumped in front of the dragon and blocked its path. At least, the dragon reached his destination after the rabbit, taking 5th place. He was angry with the rabbit.
The dog bit the rabbit on the leg while they were racing. So the dog was punished and placed 11th after the snake, horse, goat, monkey, and rooster. The pig came 12th.
In this way, the 12 animals were selected and the order became rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.