Informant KY is my aunt who was born and raised in Shanghai, and came to the states when she was in her late 20s.
KY: “I kind of don’t remember why they animals race. I think its because God wanted 12 guards or something, so the animals raced. The rat and the ox were the earliest to wake up so they raced. Eventually they came across a river that the rat couldn’t cross, so he jumped on the ox’s back. Once on the other side, the rat ran and got first place while the ox got second. Next came the tiger and rabbit cuz they were the fastest and most athletic. Following them in 5th place was the dragon. God saw dragon and was like damn you’re good looking your son can get 6th place. However, dragon’s son didn’t come and just then the snake shows up and says ‘I’m the dragon’s son’, making snake 6th place. Then came the horse and the goat, who were both really kind, so God ranked them 7th and 8th respectively. Eventually, the others, monkey, chicken, dog, and pig, came.”
The 12 zodiacs is a story that I had learned growing up and is present in my life a lot. Since one animal is represented each year in a cycle, your spirit animal is the animal of the year; mine is the ox. Often times my parents would ask people they just meet what their zodiac sign is to get a feel of the person. If they have the same zodiac sign people often bond over it. Zodiac sign also represents personality traits and love connections in Chinese culture. Zodiac signs are a really important part of Chinese culture and many other Asian cultures which is why it is very important to know where they came from.