The History Behind the Chinese New Year Animals 01.22.2020 | Bonnie Tuen

The story of why these 12 animals represent the zodiac dates back to Jade Emperor and his plan to have each calendar year be symbolized by an animal. To determine which animals, Jade Emperor invited them to a party and would see the order each animal reached him.

To reach Jade Emperor’s party, the animals would have to cross a river in what is known as The Great Race.

Despite being bad at swimming, the Cat and Rat were both intelligent and decided that the best and fastest way to cross the river was to jump on the back of the Ox.

The Ox being known for its qualities of kindheartedness and naiveté, carried them both across the river.

Just as the Ox was about to the reach the other side of the river, the Rat pushed the Cat into the water and raced ahead of the tired Ox to finish the race and reach Jade Emperor first.

And that is why the Rat was named the first animal of the zodiac calendar.

What other animals make up the zodiac calendar?

Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig (in the order in which they crossed the river).

The Chinese Lunar Calendar matches up with the above sequence with a recurring cycle of 12 years.

The Rat rings in the Chinese New Year for the year 2020.  Other Years of the Rat include: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, and 2008.

Those who are born in the Year of the Rat are known to have a quick-witted, resourceful, versatile, and kind personality trait.

Usually in the Chinese/Asian culture you want to be cautious about asking someone their animal zodiac, as it is a direct question about their age and can easily be counted!

Why is the Zodiac important to the Chinese?

  •  The zodiac is all about compatibility and Feng Shui. The level of luck varies each year and Rats (people born in the Year of the Rat) might be very compatible this year with the Ox, Dragon and Monkey, however this will not be the case in 2021. When you are compatible with certain zodiac signs, Feng Sui Masters will suggest you network more with people born those years to bring you luck.
  • It has since become a tradition that on CNY Day 1, we will follow Feng Shui Masters’ advice by putting lucky colors on ourselves or items at home, especially for those who are born in that year of zodiac.


Some of the information in this blog was used from:

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Written by Bonnie Tuen

Bonnie Tuen, GMS, is a Client Services Director who manages the service delivery from our Hong Kong and Shanghai offices. She brings over 14 years in the relocation industry and progressive added responsibility across multiple global mobility disciplines. Bonnie also brings experience and expertise as a Trusted Advisor to clients in the APAC region.

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