General information and resources for students and adult learners.

Chinese 12 Zodiac Animals

The Chinese zodiac follows a 12 –year cycle. The legend tells us how each year is named after an animal.

A long, long time ago, the Jade emperor of the heavens held a great race to decide how the years should be named, The rule is simple, all the animals took part in the competition to see what names the years should have and in which order they should come.

The race was held across the river.  In the end it was the rat who won by tricking the ox into giving him a ride on his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox's back and won the race.

The other animals arrived in the following order: The rat came first then followed by the  Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and lastly, the Pig.  The cat came in thirteenth place, which is why it has never been honored by having a year named after it.

These 12 animals represent the rotating 12-year cycle that is the basis of the Chinese Zodiac. 


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