The Chinese zodiac originated from an old story about the Jade Emperor. The legend states that all the animals were given an assignment so that they could decide who could be at the beginning of the zodiac. In this race, the animals had to cross to the other side of the river. The ox worked hard to get across the river, but did not notice the rat on his back who cheated to get to the front. There was also a cat who raced, but did not make it to the top twelve, keeping it away from any place in the calendar. The final order of the zodiac is as follows: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and finally pig.
Mrs. Chang has known this story from when she was young because it basically tells how the calendar was made. She says that the Chinese count the years by the animal and recognize each others births through the zodiac year that they were born rather than the actual numerical year. She says that this story is how the Chinese explain their way of categorizing each animal in the zodiac sign, but does not know where the story originated. It is an ancient legend that is spread throughout China and Taiwan that brings much spirit into the culture. The various zodiac signs symbolize the character of the people born in that year. For example, the rat is the first animal and the people are considered leaders with great charm and intelligence. The ox, however, is dependable and calm. These attributes relate to the story and how the animal acts to get what he wants.
One more animal that is vital to Chinese culture is the dragon, who is considered as a sign of good luck and harmony. The Chinese often want to have children born in certain years for good luck. Therefore, there are more babies born in the Dragon years than in any other zodiac year. This is because the parents wish for good luck for their children, which show that they are very watchful of their childrens futures. There are significant birth fluctuations among the Chinese population because of these varying zodiac signs (Goodkind). The selection of a good year for the Chinese is vital to having a successful life and ensuring that their children will be healthy. The Chinese culture also focuses on passing down their heritage from one generation to another, looking strictly after their children to ensure that they are fulfilling their role to reproduce effectively. They are also focused on these zodiac signs to look for luck for them and their descendants.
Annotation: This legend was found on Daniel Goodkinds Chinese Lunar Birth Timing in Singapore: New Concerns for Child Quality amidst Multicultural Modernity, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol, 58, No. 3. (Aug., 1996), pp. 784-795, Retrieved from Jstor.