A story in Mandarin: The zodiac animals

Find out how the Jade Emperor selected the twelve zodiac animals.

The Jade Emperor needed to choose an animal (listen 动物 dòng wù) for each year in the twelve (listen 十二 shí èr) year cycle.

All of the animals raced across a river (listen ) and the first twelve to finish each got to represent a year.

The cat (listen māo) and the rat (listen 老鼠 lǎo shǔ) couldn't swim well, so they asked the ox (listen níu) to carry them across.

The rat pushed the cat into the river and jumped ahead of the ox, taking first place.

The ox came second and the cat didn't make it - the cat has been enemies with the rat ever since.

After swimming against the strong current, the tiger (listen 老虎 lǎo hǔ) arrived third.

The rabbit (listen 兔子 tù zi) hopped across rocks in the river to come fourth.

The dragon (listen lóng) was expected to win as he can fly, but he helped a farmer put out a fire first so he took fifth place.

The horse (listen ) was startled by the snake (listen shé) as he was about to reach the other side.

The snake took sixth place and the horse took seventh.

The sheep (listen yáng) came up with a clever plan to work with the rooster (listen ) and the monkey (listen 猴子 hóu zi) to build up a raft.

The monkey and the rooster let the sheep go ahead of them because of his excellent plan.

The sheep came eighth, with the monkey ninth and the rooster tenth.

The dog (listen gǒu) was a good swimmer but enjoyed being in the river too much and forgot about the race so took eleventh place.

The pig (listen zhū) searched for food and took a nap before he even started so unsurprisingly came last.

Key Mandarin words

MandarinPinyinEnglish
listen 老鼠lǎo shǔrat
listenníuox
listen 老虎lǎo hǔtiger
listen 兔子tù zirabbit
listenlóngdragon
listenshésnake
listenhorse
listenyángsheep
listen 猴子hóu zimonkey
listenrooster
listengǒudog
listenzhūpig