The legend of the 12 zodiac signs in Chinese culture

Wooden bord displaying zodiac signs in Chinese culture
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The legend of the 12 zodiac signs in Chinese culture

In Chinese culture, the Chinese zodiac or shengxiao (生肖) is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year is represented by an animal and its reputed attributes.

Chinese zodiac animals have lucky meanings. Chinese people associate each animal sign with certain characteristics. It’s believed that people born in a given year have the personality of that year’s animal. Each Chinese zodiac animal has personality traits assigned to it by the ancient.

In Chinese astrology the animal signs assigned by year represent how others perceive you or how you present yourself. It is a common misconception that the animals assigned by year are the only signs. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called “inner animals”), by day (called “true animals”) and hours (called “secret animals”). While a person might appear to be a Dragon because they were born in the year of the Dragon, they might also be a Snake internally, an Ox truly, and a Goat secretly. A conflict between a person’s zodiac sign and how they live is known as Tai Sui.

Golden zodiac signs in chinese culture

But how were the Chinese zodiac signs created?

The legend of the “great race” is the most widespread in the Chinese culture. The Jade Emperor (The Emperor in Heaven in Chinese culture) ordered that animals would be designated as calendar signs and the twelve that arrived first would be selected. On that day, the rat got up very early and rushed to the gathering site. On the way, he encountered the ox that ran much faster.
In order not to fall behind, he thought up a good idea. He made the straightforward ox carry him on condition that he sang for the ox. At last, the ox and rat arrived first. The ox was happy thinking that he would be the first sign of the years, but the rat had already slid in front, and became the first lucky animal of the Chinese zodiac. That’s how did the rat win the race.
Then what is the 12 animals of Chinese zodiac in order?  Following Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

Story of chinese zodiac

About this simple story, there are different editions. Some say it was the Yellow Emperor who intended to select twelve guards. It is also said that cat hope rat could get there early and sign up on behalf, but rat completely forgot it or do that intentionally. Some say the animals were request to have a swimming race, or a simple race. Elephant was said to participate in Chinese zodiac race too, but run away finally because rat got into it trunk.

Legends seem to be strained interpretations because the original intention had been lost over such a long history. Chinese zodiac was related to the Yin Yang, Five Elements theories and other traditional life concepts. Thus it promoted the development of Chinese zodiacal culture.

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