Today is the first day of the new year of the Chinese calendar. The Chinese zodiac allocates one of 12 animals to each year, and this year, it’s the year of the rat!
The story goes that Buddha (or the Jade Emperor, depending on which version you hear) decided to hold a race for the animals so that he could have a way of measuring time. It was decided that he would name the years after the each of the first 12 animals to finish the race, and that these would follow a 12-year cycle.
On the day of the race, the rat got up at the crack of dawn to get ahead of the game. Although a good swimmer, the rat knew that winning a race across a river against much larger animals would be a challenge, so she used her superior wits to convince the ox to give her a ride across the water. The ox was a strong swimmer and got to the water’s edge first, at which point the clever rat jumped onto the river bank and raced to the finish.
Thus, the race was won with intelligence and the rat gained the honour of starting off the Chinese lunar year cycle. After the rat came the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the chicken, the dog and finally, the pig.
2020 is the year of the rat and this year, we start the 12-year lunar cycle again. Happy Chinese New Year to you all!
And how do we know the rat was a she? A male rat would have been in his hammock!