'Twas the night before Chinese New Year, and all through the lands, not a creature was stirring—except for the rat, cat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig, and pretty much every single animal on the lands, as they were all preparing for a race.
The Jade Emperor, ruler of the heavens, called for all the creatures to participate in a race on his birthday. He decided the people of China needed a way to measure time in 12-year increments. So the first 12 winners of the race would each win the honor of getting a year named after them. The race would be a long and arduous one, passing through a densely wooded forest and a wide river.
Cat and Rat were friends and agreed to win the race together by cleverly asking the strong and kind Ox to give them a ride, promising to finish after Ox won. As they were crossing the river, the cunning Rat pushes the Cat into the water. Then when they neared shore, Rat jumps ahead and wins the race. Ox comes in a close second.
Tiger, the king of all creatures in China, struggled with the strong currents, but finally made it across and became the third zodiac sign. Lucky Rabbit hopped across as the fourth, saying she found rocks and boulders to take her across the waters. The powerful and mystical Dragon was the favorite to win the race as he can fly. As he whizzes past the finish line, he explains to the Jade Emperor that he has stopped to make rain to quell a dangerous fire. This kind act pleases the emperor, and he gladly designated the dragon the fifth zodiac sign.
Soon, thunderous hooves are heard as Horse is about to finish the race. Snake jumps out!—having secretly hitched a ride on Horse's hoof. Startled, Horse raised back on her hind legs as Snake slithers across the finish line as number six. With a snort, Horse crosses in at seventh place. Meanwhile, Sheep, Monkey, and Rooster help each other along the race. At the river crossing, Rooster spots a raft. And with lots of pulling, tugging, and paddling, they all manage across the waters. The emperor, pleased to see this great team effort, honors the sheep eighth, monkey ninth, and rooster the tenth zodiac signs.
With a bark, Dog bounds across the finish line as number eleven. Such a strong runner and swimmer, he finishes after some of the slower creatures because he couldn't resist playing in the water.
Last but not least, Pig trots over and is designated the twelfth and final animal. The emperor asked Pig what took him so long, to which Pig replies, "I got hungry and stopped to forage for food. Then after eating, I got sleepy and took a nap. Thankfully, I woke up in time to finish the race." Everyone laughs and then celebrates their honors as the 12 lucky signs of the Chinese zodiac.
Hey! But what happened to Cat? Cat nearly drowned after her friend betrayed her. By the time she made it to the finish line, festivities were already under way. Bitterly, she vowed to forever hate the Rat, and this is why cats chase rats and are forever enemies.
- 「差不多、幾乎」- Pretty Much
...except for the rat, cat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig, and pretty much every single animal on the lands...
- 「要求」- Call For
The Jade Emperor, ruler of the heavens, called for all the creatures to participate in a race on his birthday.
- 「通過、穿過」- Pass Through
The race would be a long and arduous one, passing through a densely wooded forest and a wide river.
- 「載某人一程」- Give Someone A Ride
Cat and Rat were friends and agreed to win the race together by cleverly asking the strong and kind Ox to give them a ride...
- 「最後但同樣重要的」- Last But Not Least
Last but not least, Pig trots over and is designated the twelfth and final animal.
- 「小睡、打盹」- Take A Nap
Then after eating, I got sleepy and took a nap.
- 「及時」- In Time
Thankfully, I woke up in time to finish the race.