Monday, May 7, 2012

Chinese Zodiac Origin Stories

The 12 Zodiac animal signs are in order, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep (ram or goat), rooster, dog, and pig.  There are many legends to explain the beginning of the zodiac.  Most of them involve an invitation by the Jade Emperor.  And in most of the legends the cat does not make the cut.

In one story the rat was given the task of inviting the animals to report to the Jade Emperor for a banquet to be selected for the zodiac signs.  The cat was a good friend of the rat, but the rat tricked him into believing that the banquet was the next day.  The cat slept through the banquet, thinking that it was the next day.  When he found out the cat vowed to be the rat's natural enemy for ages to come.  Interestingly enough, the cat does make it into the Vietnamese zodiac, in place of the rabbit.

The cat and the rat were the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom.  Although bad swimmers, they were both intelliegent.  They decided that the best and fastest way to cross the river was to hop on the back of the ox.  The ox, being naive and a good-natured animal, agreed to carry then across. However, overcome with fierce competitiveness, the rat decided that in order to win, it must do something and promptly pushed the cat into the river. Because of this the cat has never forgiven the rat, and hates the water as well.  After the ox had crossed the river, the rat jumped ahead and reached the shore first, and it claimed the first place in the competition.

Following closely behind was the strong ox, and it was named the 2nd animal in the zodiac.  After the ox, came the tiger, panting, while explaining to the Emperor just how difficult it was to cross the river with the heavy currents pushing it downstream all the time.  But with powerful strength it made it to shore and was named the 3rd animal in the cycle.
Suddenly, from a distance came a thumping sound, and the rabbit arrived.  It explained how it crossed the river; jumping from one stone to another in a nimble fashion.  Halfway through, it almost lost the race but the rabbit was "lucky" enough to grab hold of a floating log that later washed him to shore.  For that, it became the 4th animal in the zodiac cycle. 

Coming in 5th place was the dragon, flying and belching fire into the air.  Of course the Emperor was deeply curious as to why a strong and flying creature such as the dragon should fail to reach first.  The mighty dragon explained that he had to stop and make rain to help all the people and creatures of the earth and therefore he was held back a little.  Then on his way to the finish line, he saw a little helpless rabbit clinging onto a log so he did a good deed and gave a puff of breath to the poor creature so that it could land on the shore.  The Emperor was very pleased with the actions of the dragon and he was added into the zodiac cycle. 


As soon as he had done so, a galloping sound was heard, and the horse appeared.  Hidden on the horse's hoof is the snake, whose sudden appearance gave the horse a fright thus making it fall back and gave the snake the 6th spot while the horse took the 7th.

Not long after that a little distance away, the ram, monkey, and rooster came to the shore.  These three creatures helped each other to get to where they are.  The rooster spotted a raft, and took the other two animals with it.  Together, the ram and the monkey cleared the weeds, tugged and pulled and finally got the raft to the shore. Because of their combined efforts, the Emperor was very pleased and promptly named the ram the 8th creature, the monkey the 9th , and the rooster the 10th

The 11th  animal is the dog.  His explanation for being late-although he was supposed to be the best swimmer amongst the rest-was that he needed a good bath after a long spell, and the fresh water from the river was too big a temptation.  For that, he almost didn't make it to the finish line.  Just as the Emperor was about to call it a day, an oink and squeal was heard from a little pig.  The pig got hungry and during the race, promptly stopped for a feast and then fell asleep.  After the nap, the pig continued the race and was named the 12th  and the last animal of the zodiac cycle.  The cat finished too late (13th)  to win any place in the calendar, and vowed to be the enemy of the rat forevermore.

1. What was the original purpose of the animals' journey?  What do you think were some of their thoughts when they started to plan the adventure?
2.  The Rat is considered a popular character.  Even though he can be a combination of generousity and frugality- charm and ambitious arrogance.  They are driven to achieve and seldom take a break to relax.  They are always on the go and get very easily bored.  They are very perceptive about people around them because they are shrewd and aware. Good to their families and loved ones.
 What kind of responsibilities did the rat have for this adventure? If you were the director /sponsor of this adventure how would you been to design the event?  Have you ever been responsible for planning an event, party, sponsorship, charity drive etc?
3. The Ox is considered a hard worker, stable in all things.  They don't like change, preferring to travel a familar path.  The like a traditional life and standards.  The are generally calm but deep down inside there is a serious temper that is rarely seen. If he's mad get out of the way!) The ox stands by his loved ones and is very reliable.  They like the finer things in life, food, and drink but they are willing to work for these luxuries. 
 Understanding these characteristics, how does he fit in to the initial part of this adventure? What number on the Chinese calendar does he represent?
4. "Pigs don't herd". The Boar are considered the sign of the "diamonds" of  the Chinese Zodiac.  They are very honest and open and very popular with people..They don't know how to be dishonest or underhanded they are very frank and honest.  It is not hard to fool them because that is not a concern for them, they would rather let the other animals concern themselves with ego. They are strong, dependable and loyal. They prefer a peaceful life and are great problem solvers.  The less developed Boars can sink into degenerate behavior and have a hard time climbing out, but this is not the norm. They believe in "mi casa es su casa".
The Boar is the last animal in the Chinese Zodiac he stopped by another banquet for a little snack.  How does his place in line explain his characteristics?
5. Tiger are held in high regard in China.  They have a wonderful personality, very charismatic.  They are magical creatures who keep away thieves, ghosts, and fire in the homes of the Chinese.  These are three major fears that the Tiger helps to keep at a distance.  They are very strong but this strength can be dangerous to others.  They can be fun and energetic but also make unwise, impulsive decisions. Failures are hard to shake off. But they give all they have to all goals and projects and people. They love children and babies because they never seem to grow up.  They are great to know but if you get involved with one be prepared for your ups and downs.
What characteristics allowed the Tiger to be number three?  Discuss an incident in your life when your impulsive decision became a costly one either financially or emotionally.

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