The Chinese Lunar Calendar

“Ok so the jist of it is, the Lunar Calendar, the Chinese Lunar Calendar is dictated by the year of the animal. Every year it is a different animal. The year of the tiger, year of the dragon, year of the lamb. There are 12 animals that go on rotation. Every twelve years the same animal will come to be. So depending on what year you were born on, you would be born to the year of that certain animal. And the year of the animal changes every Chinese New Year. So there are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac/lunar calendar and the legend is that the order that the order the animals came is through a race.

“So apparently, a race was called um and animals would have to race together and the first twelve that made it across the finish line would make it onto the calendar. And depending on the order those twelve came across the finish line, that would be the order one to twelve. So the main gist of the story is that the challenges that they would all have to race, they would have to jump a creek and race all of the way through and throughout the whole race, the ox was in the lead. Um during the race, the rat jumps on top of the ox and as the ox is running and right as it is by the finish line, with all of the other animal behind them, and they’re going, just as the ox is approaching the finish line the rat jumps off the ox’s head and steals first place. And so the ox becomes second. Tiger third and all of the other animals follow until twelve. That is the legend of how the lunar calendar came to be.


Who told you this story?

“My dad.”


And in what setting?

“My guess would be a discussion about Chinese New Year.”


Who usually talks about this story?

“People that are native from China or find that the story is interesting to pass along discuss it at Chinese New Year.”


What does this story mean to you?

“Um it doesn’t affect the way I live my life, a funny insight into how the Chinese culture characterizes what western culture tends to objectify. Even years form the Chinese people have a life incorporated into it. The fact that you apply living animals to every year. And there is a story to how they collaborated and how they approach one another and how that came to be.”



I think that this story is a very significant aspect of tradition Chinese culture. It is unique that animals play such a large role in the development of the calendar because I have heard that animals are good luck charms in Chinese tradition. While this story does help us understand the meaning of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, it is also a fun story to listen to and take part in the tradition.