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The Origin of the 12 Animal Signs of the Chinese Zodiac

Do you know the origin of the order of 12 Chinese zodiac animal signs? Why does Rat come 1st? Here we introduce a famous folk tale in Japan. Enjoy and learn about the ancestry of the Four Pillars of Destiny.

Cycle of 12 Chinese zodiac animal signs: Rat, Ox, Tiger, the cycle starts with, and ends with Dog, Pig.

"Rat, Ox, Tiger," the cycle starts with, and ends with "Dog, Pig".

The 12 Chinese zodiac animal signs are very well known even among the various Chinese traditional thinking.
Surely, you are aware of it, too.

However, do you know how the order was decided?
Why is the small rat the beginner?

There are many interpretations but here is one of the most famous one.

Chinese zodiac animals: God made an announcement to the animals.

Once upon a time, one day in the end of December, God made an announcement to the animals.

"Come to my place on the morning of New Year's and extent me a cordial greeting. Whoever comes first will be considered the first guardian of the year and the number will end at twelve."

All the animals that heard the announcement were anxious to become the first to visit God.
They were all looking forward to New Year's.

However, careless Cat forgot when to visit God and asked Rat.
"God is very busy on New Year's so the greeting starts on the following day," says clever Rat that purposely told Cat the wrong date.
Cat thanked Rat and went happily home.

On New Year's, slow Ox left before dawn for the greeting before any animals.
Rat who saw Ox had left, quietly jumped on Ox's back.
Unaware of Rat, Ox arrived at God's house. The gate was closed and no one seems to have arrived yet.
"I'm first!" thought Ox satisfied.

Chinese zodiac animals: Rat and Ox greet God.

After a while, the sun rose and the gate opened.
At the moment, Rat jumped off the back of Ox and ran toward God, beating Ox. Stunned, Ox became second.

Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig followed along.

Poor Cat that was deceived by Rat, paid a visit to God for the New Year's greeting the following morning.
Missing a day, Cat was not included as the 12 Chinese zodiac animals.
- That's why cats chase rats madly.


This is one story how the order was decided and which is told from generation to generation.

The cycle of the 12 Chinese zodiac animal signs is compared to the growth of plants from sprouting to falling seeds.
Find out the meaning of each animal signs at this article and see what the message of the zodiac animals sign of your birth year is.

Chinese zodiac animals: Recommended readings.

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