According to a tradition that originated in China, once upon a time the twelve animals had a disagreement about which of them should rule the cycle of years. The gods were requested to make a decision, so they staged a competition with the following rules: the first animal to reach the other bank of the river would come in first place, and the remaining animals’ ages would be determined by where they finished.
The group of twelve animals converged at the edge of the river and dove in together. The Ox had no idea that the rat had climbed up on his back until it was too late. The rat hopped off the back of the ox just as the ox was ready to jump ashore, and this allowed the rat to win the race. The pig, who was notoriously sluggish, came in dead last. Because of this, the rat represents the first year of the animal cycle, while the ox represents the second year, and the pig represents the final year.
Chinese zodiac cycle
The Chinese zodiac animal signs are based on a cycle of 12 years that is used to date events. They reflect a cyclical idea of time, as opposed to the linear concept of time that is prevalent in Western culture. According to the Chinese calendar, the new year begins sometime between the end of the month of January and the beginning of the month of February. Since 1911, the Chinese have used the Western calendar; nevertheless, the lunar calendar is still utilized for important holidays, such as the New Year’s celebration in China. There are many different types of Chinese calendars, but most of them print both the solar dates and the lunar dates.
Horoscopes have grown around the animal signs in Chinese folklore. This is similar to how monthly horoscopes in the West have developed around the different moon signs, such as Pisces, Aries, and so on. This is an interesting cultural sidelight of the animal signs in Chinese folklore. For instance, a Chinese horoscope may forecast that an individual born in the Year of the Horse would have a sunny disposition, enjoy the company of others, and be quick to offer compliments. The Chinese people find these horoscopes to be funny, but they do not take them seriously at all.