In a couple of hours, over 1 billion people in the world will celebrate Chinese New Year. The coming year is the Year of the Rat, which also marks the restart of the Chinese zodiac cycle.  The Chinese zodiac features a cycle of 12 years, symbolized by 12 animals. So, why does the smallest one like the rat stand first in line. Some folklore can provide certain explanations to it. Let’s delve into one of those stories. 

The folklore of the Chinese zodiac

Legend has it that, back when the Earth was just created by the deity, there was no means to measure time, causing so many difficulties to human beings’ lives. As a solution, the top deity decided to establish the 12-month zodiac, with each month assigned one animal. 

Given the diversity of animals on Earth, which of them would be qualified for such positions? The Jade of Emperor, thus, decided to launch a race. The first 12 across the finish line would be honored with a place on the zodiac.

Upon hearing the news, all the animals buzzed with excitement, preparing themselves for the long race ahead. 

Among those eager ones were a pair of close friends, Cat and Mouse. For such an important event, they reminded each other to wake up earlier than usual to start off. Their nimbleness promptly put them among the top runners.  

When they were at the very end of the contest, all of a sudden, a wide torrential river unfolded before them. Completely exhausted, Cat turned his desperate look at Mouse, waiting for some hints. Mouse knew that they could not give up then since the finish line was just across on the other bank. He looked around and luckily saw Ox, who was just about to step into the water. Mouse shouted out, “Hey, Ox. Wait a minute! Can you give us a ride?” Kind Ox replied without hesitation, “Sure. Hop on my back and hold on.”

Not long after, with Mouse and Cat solidly situated on the Ox’s back they made it all the way through the rushing currents. Cat felt so relaxed that he quietly fell into a deep sleep.

But Mouse was still not satisfied, he knew clearly that he wanted the top prize. He pondered who was his greatest rival for the top prize. Not Ox, with his bulky body, but Cat, ya, the fast Cat would be his most crucial rival. He quickly took action by pushing the tired Cat into the water. And when they reached the other side, Mouse rapidly hopped off from the Ox. Now, no one could stop him from being first. Following Mouse later came Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon … Cat was disqualified from the race due to the Mouse’s trick and has been Mouse’s enemy since then.

The symbol of Mouse in the Chinese zodiac

The story of Mouse has been passed down from generation to generation and it somewhat reflects its characteristics such as intelligent, nimbleness and liveliness. Those who are born in that year are also believed to blessed with such qualities. In some cases, they are deemed cunning and tricky.

And with the Year of the Mouse approaching, Happy Chinese New Year from all of us here at The BL!