The Chinese mark each year with a corresponding animal. There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac. 2012 is the year of the dragon. The order of the animals is based on the following legend.
Legend of the Chinese Zodiac:
There are many versions of the origin of the Chinese Zodiac story. This is the one story that I still remember vividly in my mind. The Buddha due his age, keeps forgotting how old he is. Therefore to make it easier for him to remember his age, he has decided to choose 12 animals to represent each year. The Buddha then invited all the animals in the world to gather at the top of the mountain for a feast. There will be a reward for the first 12 animals who arrive first for the feast. The reward would be that the first 12 animals will get a year named after them.
The night before the feast, the mouse and the cat made an agreement to wake each other up for the journey in the next morning. Being crafty as a mouse should be, it did not keep to its promise. The poor cat than overslept and missed the feast. The ox knew that it was a much slower animal, therefore it began the journey during the night.The rest of the other animals took their time, making their way to the top of the mountain.
The ox was hardworking and it walked all night. However, the ox was unaware that the mouse had been riding on his head the whole time. Just before the ox arrived at the top of the mountain, the rat cunningly jumped off the ox’s head and was the first to reach the top of the mountain, taking the first place in the zodiac. The rest of the other animals have arrived in the following order, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
Chinese Zodiac Today:
The Chinese Zodiac has always been used by the Chinese as an efficient way to calculate and keep track of a person’s age. During the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the 12 animals were associated to a person by birth and by the year. When a Chinese baby is born, his or her animal sign is said to reveal his or her character.