Many, many moons ago, on the birthday of the deity known as the Jade Emperor, the animals were gathered to participate in a great race-- the results of which would determine the names of each year in the Chinese Zodiac. At the final part of the race, the creatures found that to win, they would have to cross a vast, raging river, and meet the Emperor on the bank on the other side. The years in the calendar would then be named for each animal in the order they reached him. All of the participants desired the first place spot, but some would go to greater lengths than others to seize it. The way each animal performed in the race is believed to inform the habits and personalities of those born in the year with that animal’s name… Read on to learn more about each creature and the years they represent!
The creature who won the Emperor’s great race, and became the first animal of the Chinese Zodiac, did so with cunning wit, a touch of good luck, and a cutting dose of trickery. The Rat, the Cat, and the Ox were the first to arrive at the river, and quickly the two smaller animals realized they would not be able to cross without convincing the Ox to help, who naively obliged. The Rat and the Cat were about to reach the riverbank on the back of the Ox, when the Rat, in a flash of cruel brilliance, pushed the Cat into the water and hopped to shore, racing to the Emperor before the Ox had the chance. People born in the Year of the Rat are of nimble feet and mind, charming and likable with sharp tongues and resourceful habits. They are ambitious, smart and a little stubborn, and they know exactly how to use their unique talents and skills to get ahead and thrive.
Despite its graciousness in the race, the Ox was granted second place. But those born in a Year of the Ox wouldn’t mind the slight, as they tend to be measured and patient, calm and agreeable, and thoroughly kind at heart. Though quiet and serious, their strength, stubbornness, and enviable self-confidence always manages to shine through. Ox people hold strong to their opinions and resent failure-- they believe in themselves and their convictions. And though often gracious when facing obstacles, they have within them the capacity to explode in impulsive rages. If you’re in the good graces of these kind, rational folks consider yourself lucky, because the few who get on their nerves are in for a shock!
The tiger was third, thwarted by the twirling currants of the river despite its strength and size. In the race the Tiger showed true bravery, enthusiasm, and courage-- as do the people born in a Year of the Tiger. Their assertiveness and confidence attracts respect, and they have a natural propensity for leadership and a hunger for excitement. Within their love for a challenge and penchant for giving orders rests aggression, stubbornness, and a streak of rebellion. But Tiger people are also wonderfully captivating and warm, with a sensitivity and humor that reveals their more generous selves.
The dreamers are born in the Year of the Rabbit. When the animal approached the river, it knew that it had to get creative when thinking of a way to cross. Instead of swimming, the rabbit hopped from stone to stone, nearly making it to the bank before slipping into the water. On the strength of a dream, the rabbit made it to shore by clinging to a floating piece of wood. People born in the Year of the Rabbit possess an effortless artistry and creative spirit, and are uniquely attuned to the energies around them. They are precise and skillful, patient and supportive, and excellent listeners. Friends of Rabbits know them to be compassionate, reliable partners, who sometimes have trouble asking for support themselves. Though they dream big and keep their hearts open, they can sometimes be too cautious and put themselves at risk of missing out on good opportunities.
As the story goes, on its way to meet the Jade Emperor on the riverbank, the Dragon-- thought to be the obvious winner for its gift of flight-- changed course to bring rain water to a needy village and stopped to help the Rabbit struggling in the water. For its good nature, it was given the fifth year in the Zodiac, and all of the people born within it would possess a similar showy, yet genuine goodness, and be rewarded for it with prosperity. Those born in the Year of the Dragon may be a touch arrogant and sometimes aggressive, but they are forgiven for it at the hand of their charisma and tenacity, their intelligence, strength, ambition, and courage. Dragons are naturally confident and dominant, but they have deep respect for honor, tradition, and humanity.
The Horse was almost the sixth year of the Chinese Zodiac, but in a sly and sneaky move, the Snake wrapped itself around the Horse’s hoof, startling it before slithering ahead towards the finish. People born in the Year of the Snake are similarly smart and more than a little mysterious. These enigmatic folks boast a vast intelligence and are often wise beyond their years. Reserved and deliberate, they tend to plan ahead with a solid determination to achieve their goals. It takes a lot to gain a Snake’s trust-- they keep private and don’t share their secrets with just anyone. But once they let you in, you are afforded their passionate and generous spirit and sharp, complex mind.
The Horse, though startled, didn’t mind the Snake’s quiet presence on its hoof, as people born in a Year of the Horse are delighted by company. These vivacious, animated, energetic folk are the ideal companion to have at parties, as they flourish in social settings. Often impressive in looks and flowing with charisma, Horses try to take full advantage of life. They love to travel and seek out unique experiences, connect with new people, and attend all kinds of cultural and artistic events. They can be testy and stubborn, and relish in the limelight, but their caring hearts and ability to make genuine connections makes them really shine.
In the Great Race, the Goat, Monkey, and Rooster worked together to cross the raging river. That spirit of teamwork and camaraderie carries over into people born in a Year of the Goat. With a strong sense of justice and a huge capacity for compassion and empathy, Goats have a natural impulse to care and look out for others, sometimes to a fault. Behind their calm, amiable demeanor sometimes rests insecurities, indecisiveness, and a need for love. But these gentle, kind-hearted beings are also incredibly artistic and creative, and engage in complex, deep thought that often steers them towards the mysteries of the world and the meaning of life.
The efforts it took to get the Monkey, Goat, and Rooster to the end of the race required drive, tenacity, quick-thinking, and problem solving abilities-- all fantastic qualities of people born in a Year of the Monkey. Witty, clever, and devastatingly intelligent, these magnetic people are known to draw in all of the attention in a room. Year of the Monkey people always have a twinkle of playful mischief in their eye, and are usually up for all kinds of games, jokes, and challenges. They can lean towards opportunism and over-ambition, but their ability to captivate audiences with a brilliantly-told story or cutting insight brings them back down to earth.
Struggling in the water with the Goat and Monkey, the Rooster grabbed a passing plank of wood to use as a raft in a stroke of craftiness. Resourceful, observant, and realistic are people born in a Year of the Rooster. These hard-working folks shine under pressure, and are confident and straightforward in their thoughts, actions, and opinions. A little eccentric with a flare for fashion and style, Roosters can also be outgoing and enjoy some time in the spotlight. Their determination and self-assuredness can lead to blips of vanity, arrogance, and aggression, but often the Rooster’s contributions to thought and conversation warrant their more cutting behaviors. They make fiercely loyal friends, and devoted partners.
Legend has it that the dog was a favorite to win the Great Race, but lost time when he decided to stop in the river to play, bathe, and rest. Those born in a Year of the Dog also value seizing the moment and taking care of themselves when they need it most. Their acute sense of right and wrong often leads them to make measured, responsible choices, though sometimes they fall victim to irrational fears and pessimism. Ultimately, their honesty and curiosity allow them to live energetic and meaningful lives full of people they love, cherish, and strive to protect. Someone born in a Year of the Dog usually roots for the little guy, radiates compassion, and sets out to provide for the people they care about.
Last but certainly not least in the Jade Emperor’s Great Race to determine the animals of the Chinese Zodiac was the beloved and big-hearted Pig! But last place doesn’t phase folks born in a Year of the Pig, as they are too good natured and well-spirited to mind. These sincere and generous people thrive when giving advice or lending a helping hand, and they derive real pleasure out of their friendships and relationships. Although smart and eager to learn, their innocence sometimes manifests as naivety, leading them to be taken advantage of and duped. But Pigs are resilient and optimistic, and bounce back from negative experiences with a brightness and ambition unrivaled by any of the other Zodiac creatures.