Legends of the Chinese Zodiac

Why is the rat first in the 12-year Chinese zodiac?

How are the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig ranked?

One day a long, long time ago, the Jade Emperor (Emperor of Heaven) invited all the animals to his birthday party.

He wanted to have a little fun so he called for a race among all the animals on the day of the celebration.

In the order that the animals arrived, the Jade Emperor would assign them to be the guards on the road toward heaven.

The big prize - and the catch - was this: a year in the Chinese calendar would be named after each animal, but there could only be 12 winners.

All the animals wanted to gain a permanent place in the Chinese zodiac.

We all know that cats and rats dislike each other, but according to this legend, the two were once very good friends.

The cat and rat had decided to attend the Jade Emperor's birthday party together.

Now, the cat had a problem getting up in the morning so he asked the rat to wake him up early on the day of the race.

The rat agreed. However, the rat broke his promise to the cat and left on his own in the morning.

Once the rat got to the river, he knew it would take ages for him to swim across on his own strength.

The clever rat decided the fastest way across the river was on the back of the ox. So he cajoled the naive and good-natured ox to carry him across.

Unaware of the rat's designs, the ox carried the rat all the way to the Jade Emperor's house.

The rat jumped down and made it first into the house with the ox behind him.

After that came the tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

This is why the year of the rat is the first year in the Chinese zodiac and the year of the ox is the second.That is why there is no year of the cat. The cat never forgave the rat and they have hated each other since.

Find out your Chinese zodiac sign and what it means!