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The Legend of the Chinese New Year Animals

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Chinese Zodiac

As you may already know, the Chinese calendar is based on the phases of the moon. and when a new year begins, it brings with it one of the 12 Chinese zodiac. Every 12 years, the sequence begins again. This year (2018) for example, is the Year of the Dog which will not come around again until 2030. When the animal you were born under comes around again, it becomes an important year when you might consider getting married, buying a house or starting a business. The Chinese zodiac is also important when being compatible with a lover, or considering whether you should have a child. The year you were born in will affect your future and many future parents will consider dates before trying for a baby if the current year is not a positive one.

The Order of the Chinese New Year Animals

There are many interesting myths relating to the 12 zodiac and where they came from, my favourite being the race between the animals, which gives us the order of the zodiac.

This is the story of the Chinese Zodiac 生肖 (shēng xiào) and how the order came to be.

玉皇大帝过生日,下令让所有的动物前来祝寿,同时决定按前来报到顺序选定十二生肖的排名,第一个到达天宫门口的排第一个,第二个到达的排第二个,以此类推

(yù huáng dà dì guò shēng rì, xià lìng ràng suǒ yǒu de dòng wù qián lái zhù shòu, tóng shí jué dìng àn qián lái bào dào shùn xù xuǎn dìng shí èr shēng xiào de pái míng, dì yī gè dào dá tiān gōng mén kǒu de pái dì yī gè, dì èr gè dào dá de pái dì èr gè, yǐ cǐ lèi tuī.)

The Jade Emperor 玉皇 (yù huáng) wanted to celebrate his birthday (Chinese New Year) by designating the 12 signs of the zodiac. He told all the animals on earth that whoever reached the Gates of Heaven the fastest would be the first zodiac, then whoever got there second would be next in the zodiac and so on.

所有的动物都需要跨过一条河才能抵达天宫大门

(suǒ yǒu de dòng wù dōu xū yào kuà guò yī tiáo hé cái néng dǐ dá tiān gōng dà mén)

All the animals had to cross a river to get to the Gate.

那个时候,猫和老鼠还是好朋友,约定一起赢得比赛

(nèi gè shí hou, māo hé lǎo shǔ hái shì hǎo péng you, yuē dìng yī qǐ yíng dé bǐ sài)

At this time, the cat and rat were still good friends and set off together in an attempt to win the race.

他们发现牛已经做好跨河的准备,所以跳上牛背请求牛带他们过河

(tā men fā xiàn niú yǐ jīng zuò hǎo kuà hé de zhǔn bèi, suǒ yǐ tiào shàng niú bèi qǐng qiú niú dài tā men guò hé.)

They found the Ox already making good progress across the river, and after jumping on his back asked him to take him across the river.

牛非常善良,所以同意了背他们过河

(niú fēi cháng shàn liáng, suǒ yǐ tóng yì le bèi tā men guò hé.)

The Ox was extremely good-natured and allowed them to ride on his back.

然而,当他们抵达河对岸时,老鼠将猫推进了河里,同时提前跳下地,比牛先到达天宫门口

(rán ér, dāng dāng dǐ dá hé duì àn shí, lǎo shǔ jiāng māo tuī jìn le hé lǐ, tóng shí tí qián tiào xià de, bǐ niú xiān dào dá tiān gōng mén kǒu.)

However, as they reached the opposite river bank, the rat pushed the cat into the river and jumped on to the ground, reaching the Gate before the Ox.

皇大帝嘉许了第一个到达的老鼠,并定下十二生肖之首为鼠,而牛则为生肖第二

(huáng dà dì jiā xǔ le dì yī gè dào dá de lǎo shǔ, bìng dìng xià shí èr shēng xiào zhī shǒu wèi, ér niú zé wèi shēng xiào dì èr.)

The Jade Emperor congratulated the rat on arriving first, and made the first zodiac the Year of the Rat 鼠年 (shǔ nián).

The Year of the Ox 牛年 (niú nián) became the second zodiac.

老虎通过和水流奋力搏击也成功过河,让玉皇大帝很高兴,成为排名第三的生肖

(lǎo hǔ tōng guò hé shuǐ liú shuǐ liú bó jī yě chéng gōng guò hé, ràng yù huáng dà dì hěn gāo xìng, chéng wéi pái míng dì sān de shēng xiào.)

The third zodiac was the Year of the Tiger 虎年 (hǔ nián), who had struggled against a current to cross the river, and pleased the Emperor greatly.

兔子不会游泳,但是借助河中的石头也成功跳过河,成为第四个到达的生肖

(tù zi bù huì yóu yǒng, dàn shì jiè zhù hé zhòng dì shí tou yě chéng gōng tiào guò hé, chéng wéi dì sì gè dào dá de shēng xiào.)

Next came the Year of the Rabbit 兔年 (tù nián) who, being unable to swim had hopped from log to stone in order to cross the river.

第五个到达的生肖是龙,它直接飞到了天宫的大门口

(dì wǔ gè dào dá de shēng xiào shì lóng, tā zhí jiē fēi dào le tiān gōng de dà mén kǒu).

The fifth zodiac was the Year of the Dragon 龙年 (lóng nián) who flew down to the Gate.

玉皇大帝问它,既然它会飞,为什么才第五名。

(yù huáng dà dì wèn tā, jì rán tā huì fēi, wèi shén me cái dì wǔ míng)

The Emperor asked him, why, since he had wings, was he fifth in the race?

善良的龙解释到他需要先去降雨为其它动物提供赖以生存的饮水

(shàn liáng de lóng jiě shì dào tā xū yào xiān qù jiàng yǔ wèi qí tā dòng wù tí gōng lài yǐ shēng cún de yǐn shuǐ)

The kind dragon explained that he had needed to provide drinking water for other animals and had been creating rain.

接着抵达的是马,但是当它要到门口的时候,狡猾的蛇从它的蹄子上盘旋而下,吓了它一跳,因此,蛇先一步抵达,成为排名第六的生肖,而马排名第七

(jiē zhe dǐ dá de shì mǎ, dàn shì dāng tā yào dào mén kǒu de shí hòu, jiǎo huá de shé cóng tā de tí zǐ shàng pán xuán ér xià, xià le tā yī tiào, yīn cǐ, shé xiān yī bù dǐ dá, chéng wéi pái míng dì liù de shēng xiào, ér mǎ pái míng dì qī.)

Next came the horse, but just as he was about to arrive at the Gate, the crafty snake unravelled himself from the horse’s leg and, scaring the horse, make his way to the gate and the Emperor proclaimed the sixth zodiac, Year of the Snake 蛇年 (shé nián), followed by the seventh zodiac, the Year of the Horse 马年 (mǎ nián).

随后羊,猴子和公鸡一起乘木筏到了

(suí hòu yáng, hóu zi hé gōng jī yī qǐ chéng mù fá dào le.)

Across the river came a raft carrying the goat, monkey and rooster.

玉皇大帝看到这三只动物能够协同合作,感到很高兴,所以分别点名它们为生肖第八、九、十名

(yù huáng dà dì kàn dào zhè sān zhǐ dòng wù néng gòu xié tóng hé zuò, gǎn dào hěn gāo xìng, suǒ yǐ fēn bié diǎn míng tā men wèi wèi dì bā, jiǔ, shí míng.)

The Emperor was happy that the three animals had worked together, and named the eighth, ninth and tenth zodiac’s, Year of the Goat 羊年 (yáng nián), Year of the Monkey 猴年 (hóu nián) and Year of the Rooster 鸡年 (jī nián) respectively.

第十一名到的动物是狗

(dì shí yī míng dào de dòng wù shì gǒu.)

The eleventh animal to arrive was the Year of the Dog 狗年 (gǒu nián).

它到时,玉皇大帝问它为何这么晚才到

(tā dào shí, yù huáng dà dì wèn tā wèi hé zhè me wǎn cái dào)

On his arrival, the Emperor asked him why he was so late.

狗回答说,因为河水太清了,所以它忍不住在来的路上洗了个澡

(gǒu huí dá shuō, yīn wèi hé shuǐ tài qīng le, suǒ yǐ tā rěn bu zhù zài lái de lù shang xǐ le gè zǎo)

The dog told him that since the water was so clean, he had taken a bath on his way.

最后,猪也在吃饱睡足之后到达了天宫门口,成为第十二个生肖

(zuì hòu, zhū yě zài chī bǎo shuì zú zhī hòu dào dá le tiān gōng mén kǒu, chéng wéi dì shí èr gè shēng xiào)

Finally, the boar arrived at the gate after having eaten and slept, and the twelfth zodiac became the Year of the Boar 猪年 (zhū nián).

不幸的是,因为被老鼠推进河里,猫最后一个到达天宫门口,无法登上生肖榜

(bú xìng de shì, yīn wèi bèi lǎo shǔ tuī jìn hé lǐ, māo zuì hòu yī gè dào dá tiān gōng mén kǒu, wú fǎ dēng shàng shēng xiào bǎng)

Unfortunately, since the rat had pushed him into the river, the cat arrived last and was unable to become part of the calendar.

从此以后,老鼠和猫也成了宿敌

(cóng cǐ yǐ hòu, lǎo shǔ hé māo yě chéng le sù dí.)

From that day on, rats and cats have been mortal enemies.

If you’ve heard other myths and stories about the Chinese New Year Animals, share them with us below! If you want to find out more about your own Year, take a look at the post about the Chinese Zodiac and each animal’s personality traits.

               

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