Year of the Rat 2020

An Origin of the Chinese Zodiac Signs Poem

Every Lunar New Year the Zodiac sign changes from one animal to the next within a twelve year cycle. 2019 had been blessed by the Pig, while 2020 is annointed to be the Year of the Rat. The Rat is the first animal in the cycle, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. But who chose, which animal is a Zodiac and at which place?

In mythology, there are two wide-spread story variation explaining the origins of the Zodiac signs and order acknoledged. The one depicted in the following poem is the Great Race, which the Jade Emperor, ruler of all gods, hosted to finally determine how to count the years. To give a new persective to a story told manifold, I decided to narate the happenings of the Great Race from the retrospective of the animals themselves. Did you know that there was a cat in the race too? No? Well, then enjoy!

I’ll give you in Limmerick style (the verse lines are too long, you need to move the text left and right to read it all – will be fixed soon),

Origin of the Chinese Zodiac Signs

by Gregor

From the edge of the heavenly realm an animal gazed down upon us;
pinkish body, curly tail, well-rounded and always auspicious.
An “oink” and then a sigh,
time so fast went by.
In the lunar calendar, the year of the Pig is coming to an end, alas!

On its weary leg the gluttonous Boar received a soothing pat.
“Come on old friend, it is time to rest”, reassured a hand-sized Rat.
The Pig asked, “Remember the face
of the Jade Emperor, his grace,
when you rode on the Ox’s back but into the river fell the Cat?”

“I can recall what happened that day, when time did not have a pace,”
answered the Rat, “The ruler of all gods, he hosted the Great Race.
The first twelve animals to arrive
on the stream’s other shore alive
will be honoured as Zodiac in the calendar, depending on its place.”

The Rat continued, “You see, the Cat and I had been good friends.
That it slipped and fell into the water was not my fault, no offense.
Since that accident long ago
All of the cats hate my kin so.
However, it secured me a place as Zodiac, so I plan no amends.”

“You jumped off the Ox’s back and finished first”, remembered the Swine.
“Not bothered by your clever trick, the Ox crossed as second the finish line,
Followed by the Tiger’s mighty roar
as it did from the deep waters soar.
At least the third place was granted to one member of family of the feline.”

Behind the conversing Pig and Rat a white fluffy Rabbit appeared.
“Pig, you are late as always”, it exclaimed loudly while it neared.
“Wait! Are you telling the story
of the Great Race and the glory
of my fourth place that I conquered, although for my life I had feared?”

“Well, after you jumped from rock to rock, you fell into the stream,”
said the Pig, “but you could rescue yourself onto a floating wooden beam,
which then was blown to shore
by the Dragon’s breath galore.
The Wyrm even let you finish before it crossed the line as fifth supreme.”

“It does not matter, whether I had help, what counts is that I was faster
than the Horse, which ran with furious hooves into a personal disaster.
Right before it’s last sprint kick
the Snake, using the Rat’s trick,
jumped of the Horse’s back. The scary surprise the Stallion could not master.

I saw it when hooves-up it recoiled, while the Snake slithered as sixth to the goal.
The former galloping Horse walked shaken by fear over the finish line like a foal.”
After the Rabbit finished its explanation,
the Rat retold the rare occasion
when the Sheep, Monkey and Rooster made it together over the river as a whole.

“The unlikely team,” it began, “had been formed by the friendly Sheep,
Which managed the steady peace between all three animals to keep.
Together they built a boat
to stay on the river afloat
and crossed finish line without sinking in the cascading stream so deep.

By sustaining the harmony in the team, the Sheep finished eighth in place,
followed by the Monkey as ninth and Rooster as tenth in the Great Race.
After them there was a long pause,
the Jade Emperor was worried about the cause,
when suddenly the Dog paddled its way through the river in slow pace.”

“All soaked up and exhausted it arrived at the waiting Jade Emperor’s feet,”
the Rabbit continued, “the water was refreshing in that fateful day’s heat.
The Dog played for some hours
in the stream’s droplet showers.
But it finished eleventh, so at least the last race contender it could beat.”

“Pig?” the Rabbit asked, “you are a good sprinter, why did you finish last?”
The Swine answered, “Oink! It is true, when I want, I can run really fast.
But you see, even before
I reached the starting shore
I found some delicious fruits and ate until my hunger had passed.

Tired of all the work my jaw had to do, I laid down to take a small rest.
Hours later when I woke up, I felt that in the race I could be the best.
As I crossed the finish line
I heard, “Twelfth is the Swine!”.
Well, at least I could not only take my speed but also my belly to the test.”

The Pig, Rabbit and Rat laughed out loud and sunshine pierced the skies.
“Well, that’s it”, said the Boar, “I guess it is time for our good-byes!
I hope you all will have a blessed year,
the Rat will take the lead from here.”
And so, the Rabbit and Pig retreated, leaving the Rat with its watchful eyes.

From the edge of the heavenly realm an animal gazes down upon you and me
Small, clever, resourceful, it can turn unlucky events into fortune for thee.
May the Rat bless your endeavour
This year, next Zodiac cycle and forever.
Happy Lunar New Year! Try in your own Great Race the first one to be!

I hope you enjoyed the poem! May the Rat bless you year and make you press that “Follow” button 😉

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