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Legends of the Chinese Zodiac

Updated on February 7, 2012

When Is The Chinese New Year?

The Chinese New Year does not happen every year on January 1. In fact, it doesn't even happen on the same day each year. The Chinese New Year takes place anywhere between the last few weeks of January to the first few weeks of February. This year, the year of 2012, the Chinese New Year happened on January 23, 2012.

I decided to do a hub about the Chinese New Year a few weeks ago, thinking I had time because this day normally happens in February. How wrong I was. But I'm gonna do this hub, anyway, and let people know a few of the legends surrounding the start of the Chinese Zodiac system.

But first, I welcome the year of the Dragon!

What Does It Mean To Be One Of The Animals?

For the longest time, I thought that I was born in the year of the dragon. I thought that the year changed on January 1, and so I only bothered to look into the year that I was born. But, once I found out that the Chinese New Year happened usually in mid-February, and I am born at the start of February, I did a little research. I am the year of the Rabbit.

What makes the Chinese New Year so interesting is how it is viewed to affect people. It is thought that all those born in the year of whatever animal it is will gain the characteristics of that animal. I am a rabbit, and those born in the year of the rabbit are lucky, gentle, caring, talented, friendly, shy, and sentimental. Does this fit me? Yes, it actually does.

But looking at the animals, why were those selected? Why in this order?: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig? Those seem kind of weird. Well, I found two legends about them and decided to share them.

Legend Number 1--A Feast

One day, Buddha (or the Jade Emperor, who is the Emperor of Heaven) decided to hold a celebratory feast. He sent out an invitation to all the animals, but only twelve showed up. Because there wasn't a way to mark the passage of time, apparently, the order of which the animals came became the order of the years.

The ox would have been the first to come, but the rat used the ox to ride on. And just when the ox was about to enter, the rat jumped off and entered the house first. Then the ox followed, along with the tiger, rabbit, dragon, and the others.

There is a variation on this tale, in which the rat tricked the cat, an animal that does not show up in the cycle. The rat told the cat that the feast was on a different day, and the cat was left out. This legend is really talked about in the manga (Japanese comic) and anime called Fruits Basket.


Legend Number 2--A Race

This legend pretty much has the same principal characters as the first legend.

Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) wanted to put a way to measure time in place. So he sends out an invitation to all the animals to race across a river. The first twelve animals who reach the other side of the river will be given one of the twelve spots, in order of how they finished.

The rat knew that he wouldn't be able to cross the river by strength, so he used his brains and rode on top of a strong swimmer. He jumped off once the ox reached the other shore and became the first year. The ox was second. The tiger, also a good swimmer, followed next. The rabbit made it across through speed and also help by the dragon. The dragon went and helped many different people and the rabbit before reaching the other side, which was why he wasn't first.

The snake hid in the hoof of the horse and surprised the horse so that he would be the sixth and the horse would be the seventh. The sheep (or goat), rooster, and monkey all helped each other out to get across the river. The dog was bathing in the river, which was why he was almost last. And finally, the pig was last. He was last because he rested halfway through the race.

Further Information

There is more to the Chinese Zodiac other than just giving someone character traits and marking the passage of time. The Chinese Zodiac changes based off of elemental properties. I stated that I was born in the year of the rabbit, but that year was heavy in the element of fire. I am a Fire Rabbit. Nothing is scarier that a flaming rabbit. But that fire doesn't mean I'm angry or anything else, it just changes some personality characteristics and what other elements I need in my life to keep it in balance.

But that sounds an awful lot like Feng Shui. And that's completely correct. The Chinese Zodiac is connected to Feng Shui, and can change what you need in your house to keep the energy (or Chi) flowing properly.

Chi? Isn't that the same thing from Tai Chi? Yeup! Chi is the flow of energy. In places where the energy is not flowing, there can be discord and difficulties. Feng Shui helps keep the good energy flowing and the bad energy out of the house or home. Tai Chi helps the flow of this energy keep moving inside of the human body. When your Chi is flowing right, you feel better about yourself and your life starts moving more smoothly.

Now you may say, "Hold up, Cammiebar. Why does the New Year change from year to year? What's up with that? You just ignored it in your first and second sections!" Well, here is the answer to that. The calendar that many people use, which deals with the twelve months of 30 to 31 days (except for February), is based off of the rotation of the sun. This time system deals with the lunar/solar cycle and Gregorian aspects. That's why it's different.

This is a really basic hub about two legends and a slipshod manner of giving information about the Chinese Zodiac. But hey, I'm a rabbit and a rabbit is fast moving!

For more information about characteristics about your sign, click here.

For more information about what your sign is, click here.


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Enjoyed getting the backstory on these Zodiac signs.

    • Cammiebar profile image

      Cammiebar 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      I really liked that website. It's pretty exact. Glad you stopped by!

    • bmukherjii profile image

      bmukherjii 6 years ago

      Whoa..I visited your website. I discovered that I am a "Goat" and My partner is a "pig". Both of us go well together :D

    • Cammiebar profile image

      Cammiebar 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Taoist. I'm more the philosophical type and it deals completely with the flow of your chi and finding a type of enlightenment.

    • rabbit75 profile image

      rabbit75 6 years ago

      Religion? Buddhist?

    • Cammiebar profile image

      Cammiebar 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you very much. Not many people know that many different things can relate to the elements in the Chinese culture. I learned a lot about these things because of my religion.

    • rabbit75 profile image

      rabbit75 6 years ago

      Well, you went a bit beyond, stating that you're a "fire rabbit". Most people don't know that each animal has different elements like fire, wood, water, etc. I'm a wood rabbit and there are differences between the two in terms of personality traits and so forth, just like there's differences between fire dragon and wood dragons.

      So what can I say? I'm impressed.

    • Cammiebar profile image

      Cammiebar 6 years ago from Upstate New York


      What's the point of doing a hub if you don't do some research? I could only find two legends, though. All the best

    • rabbit75 profile image

      rabbit75 6 years ago

      Ahhh did your homework on this topic. Quite accurate. Good stuff Cammiebar and great information!

      Voted up and awesome!

    • Cammiebar profile image

      Cammiebar 6 years ago from Upstate New York


      I thought that the Dragon, however, was awesome since he was very helpful. As well as the other animals that helped each other. Thanks for reading and all the best!

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 6 years ago from Chennai, India

      An engaging hub about Chinese Zodiac signs. The legends are indeed interesting! The way the animals tried to outwit each other is hilarious, esp the rat trying to out-smart the ox (in both legends) and the snake fooled the horse! Thank u for sharing. Rated it funny and interesting. Vote up.

    • Cammiebar profile image

      Cammiebar 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      @theastrology Thanks for reading once again! It's always nice to hear from you. All the best.

      @echoe That cool to hear that you're a wood rat! That can tell me a whole lot about your possible personality haha Have a nice one!

    • echoe0021 profile image

      echoe0021 6 years ago from Conway, AR

      Excellent article, found out I'm a wood rat thanks to the links. This was fun.

    • theastrology profile image

      theastrology 6 years ago from New Delhi

      Hey Cammiebar, Thanks for great information about Chinese zodiac singn. I always interested to read such type of topics.

      Thums UP!

    • Cammiebar profile image

      Cammiebar 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for stopping by Christy!

      Everything can get so complicated, so it's easier to just focus on one thing sometimes. Thanks for your comment and all the best.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      There is so much information I am hearing about the event. I appreciate one central location here in this hub for me to learn more. Vote up


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