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1001 Pussy Cat Pussy Cat Milada Vigerova
Added on 06th October 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from China

Asia Animals
1001

A legend about the origins of the Chinese zodiac..

Story

One day, the Jade Emperor declared that he would be holding a race for the entire animal kingdom – the first twelve animals to cross the river would form the Chinese zodiac. Although Rat was very small and a bad swimmer, he was very cunning. He tricked the Ox into carrying him to the other side, where he jumped ahead and was named the first animal of the Chinese zodiac. Not only that, but Rat had betrayed his best friend, Cat, leaving him to sleep through the entire race instead of waking him up that morning. Furious to discover he had missed the race and the chance to be part of the zodiac, the Cat swore to hate the devious rat forever, which is why, to this day, cats chase rats.

Why we chose it

A popular story about the origins of the Chinese zodiac.

Where it came from

There are many legends detailing the origin of the Chinese zodiac, the twelve-year cycle which characterises each year as a particular animal. Some historians believe that the zodiac originates from a time when there were no domesticated cats in China, hence the lack of a cat in the cycle.

Where it went next

The legend of the zodiac’s origin is hugely popular with many different variants. Its influence can be seen everywhere, from modern martial arts films like Cat vs. Rat (1982) to Fruits Basket, a manga and anime whose story and characters uses the zodiac legend in a modern context.

Associated stories

There are many different versions of the Rat and Cat myth, including one in which instead of a race there is a banquet, which the cat misses, and another in which the Rat pushes the Cat off the Ox’s back at the last minute. Other versions claim Rat simply forgot to sign up on Cat’s behalf, rather than intentionally excluding it. Other Chinese legends which explain the Rat’s foremost position in the zodiac include a myth about the origin of the world. The universe was dark and without form, like an egg, but the rat bit into it, and let the air in.

Added on 06th October 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from China

Asia Animals
1001