Sifu Cristina Prudencio-Brunello

Youth Student’s Corner

 By Sifu Cristina Prudencio-Brunello

There are 12 Chinese zodiac signs that cycle every lunar year. This year, we celebrate the Rat. Each sign is named after an animal, and each animal has its own unique characteristics. The origin of the zodiac lies in a fable about the Jade Emperor and his search for 12 animals to guard the Heavenly Gate. Though the details vary depending on the storyteller, it goes something like this….

Long, long ago, the Jade Emperor (who ruled over the spirit world) made an announcement: he needed 12 animals to guard the Heavenly Gate. He sent a messenger to earth to spread the news: any animal who wished to have this honour was to present themselves at the Palace– the earlier they passed through the Heavenly Gate, the better rank they would have.

The next day, animals set off towards the Palace. Just before the Gate stood a mighty river with a swift current. Rat was the first to arrive – he took one look at the river and knew he’d be swept away! So Rat waited until another animal, Ox, appeared, and quickly jumped onto his ear. Hardworking Ox did not mind, and continued across the river. Once they crossed, Rat quickly jumped off of Ox and scampered to the Palace. For his quick thinking, Rat finished first, and is the luckiest zodiac animal. Right behind Rat, Ox came second.

In third came Tiger – she had trouble navigating the fast current, but because of her strength and perseverance, she managed to get across. Rabbit crossed the river by hopping on stones and floating on a log. At one point, the log started to float away with the current, but a sudden gust of wind pushed it to the other shore, and so Rabbit came fourth.

Dragon arrived fifth, which confused the Jade Emperor. “Why did you not arrive sooner?” he asked. The Dragon explained that on his way, he stopped to put out a fire in a nearby village, and when Rabbit was almost swept away, he made the gust of wind to send him in the right direction. The Emperor smiled at these acts of kindness.

Horse galloped toward the Palace, and thought he would finish sixth. But just before he crossed the Heavenly Gate, Snake appeared in his path, and the Horse jumped backwards in fright. Snake slithered on ahead, and so she came sixth and Horse came seventh.

Just before Rooster was about to cross the river, he saw Monkey and Ram, and convinced them to help each other. So, they made a raft, and crossed the river using teamwork. Eighth, ninth, and tenth ranks went to Ram, Monkey, and Rooster. Playful Dog spent too much time splashing in the river, so he ranked eleventh. Finally, Pig, who had stopped several times to eat a snack and take a nap, arrived last. These 12 animals became guards of the Heavenly Gate.

Do you know your zodiac animal? Find out in this Chinese Zodiac article.