The Chinese Lunar calendar is represented by 12 Zodiac animals in order for it to be appealing to the common people, as well as easier to understand. Accompanying it are various tales as to how the 12 animals were chosen to represent the 12 unique qualities & fortunes we as humans find relatable and meaningful.
In a post on “Light in the Clouds”, one version of these tales was presented, which centers the attention on the rat in honor of the year being “Year of the Rat”. It is a short tale, one that was translated from Japanese to English. The original source is from “Eto Jōhō Site” (干支情報サイト), which can be accessed here.
A long, long time ago at the dawn of time, the Heavenly God made an announcement to all the animals throughout the lands.
“As the world is greeted by the New Year, come all to my kingdom on the morning of New Year’s day. Whichever 12 of you who are the fastest here will be appointed as an animal commander, where each of you will represent one year according to the order of your arrival. ”
Upon hearing the announcement, each animal was very serious about this, with thoughts about being number one. They waited for New Year’s Day to come. It just so happened that the cat forgot which day they were to go to the Heavenly God’s place. The rat intentionally told the cat one day later than the appointed date, which the cat took at face value for the time, and happily went home.
When New Year’s day finally arrived, the ox thought to himself, “I should set out slightly early, since I do walk slow”. Making preparations while it was still late night, the ox headed out while it was still dark. The rat, who spotted the ox from the top of the ox’s shed, sprang up into the air and landed on the ox’s back.
With thoughts about wanting to be 1st as well, the rat pleasantly waited there, as the gates to the Heavenly Palace opened. Immediately it jumped down from the ox’s back, and scurried through the gates, making the rat the 1st to arrive. Following this, the order in which the animals arrived is the ox as 2nd, next the tiger, then the rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep (goat), monkey, rooster, dog, and boar (pig). As a side note, the cat arrived one day late to the Heavenly Palace, thus there are no good relations between the rat and the cat.
To this day, it’s believed that cats chase rats due to the grudge they bear from being deceived by that one rat.