Ushering in the Year of the Dog: Legend of the 12 Zodiacs

Chinese New Year is fast approaching and with it comes a whole host of superstitions to avoid. According to Chinese superstition, doing things such as consuming medicine, sweeping the floors and even meeting crying children may compromise our luck for the coming year and lead to bad fortune. However, it is not all doom and gloom when it comes to this highly anticipated holiday. 2018 is the Year of the Dog, an animal which symbolizes luck and good fortune. There are in fact 12 animals (or zodiac signs) represented on the Lunar Calendar. Many Chinese also believe in 算命 (fortune-telling) based on the Zodiac sign of their birth year.

Fortune reading panels for People born in year of the Rooster & the Dog

Story of the 12 Zodiacs

Long ago, before the Chinese zodiac was established, the Jade Emperor (the supreme deity of Chinese tradition) wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards and sent an immortal to Earth to spread the message.

The next day, all the animals of the Earth set off toward the Heavenly Gate to meet the Jade Emperor. The Rat awoke especially early on this day in order to be first to the Heavenly Gate, however, on his way he encountered a river which he could not cross. After waiting for a long while, the Rat noticed an Ox about to cross the river, and jumped into his ear. The diligent Ox did not mind helping the Rat and allowed him to sit in his ear.

After crossing the river, he raced toward the Heavenly Gate. Alas, the Rat jumped out of the Ox’s ear and sprinted toward the Heavenly Gate just as the Ox was about to reach and claimed the first place while the Ox claimed second place.

The Tiger and Rabbit came in 3rd and 4th respectively because both are fast-moving and competitive animals, but the Tiger was much faster than the Rabbit and was able to beat it in the race and claimed the 3rd position.

After the Rabbit came the Dragon in 5th place. The Dragon was a beautiful creature, and was immediately noticed by the Jade Emperor. Impressed by the Dragon’s majestic looks, the Jade Emperor allowed the Dragon’s son to claim a spot in his guard as well. However, the Dragon’s son did not come that day. Instead, the crafty Snake slithered up in front of the Jade Emperor and said that the Dragon was his adoptive father – so the Snake ranked 6th.

After the Snake, came the Horse and Goat. Seeing how these 2 animals were modest and allowed each other to go first, the Jade Emperor himself named the Horse the 7th and the Goat the 8th in this celestial race.

Statues of 12 zodiacs in jade dragon temple

Although the speedy Monkey had fallen behind, he was able to swing swiftly between the branches of trees and managed to claim the 9th position in the Jade Emperor’s guard. Behind the Monkey was the Dog initially, but the Dog saw the clean river and was so tempted to take a bathe, so he did. And instead of the Dog arriving behind the Monkey, the Rooster overtook the Dog while it was bathing and arrived first. Hence the Rooster became the 10th and the Dog the 11th.

Lastly, the lazy Pig arrived from a feast it had chanced upon on the way to the Heavenly Gate. Tottering from its big belly, the Jade Emperor named it the 12th animal in its guards. Hence the story of the 12 animals selected to guard the Jade Emperor is completed.


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