• Yina Luo

The Tales of The Chinese Zodiac

Here at ReDefiners World Languages, we teach our students to learn more about the cultural influences of the language they are learning. In Mandarin, zodiacs play a significant role in speech and linguistic attributes. You could often hear Chinese people ask “What’s your sign?” (你属什么[ní shu shén me]) instead of “How old are you?” (你几岁[ní jî suì]). People can tell your age by your sign and the year you were born. Isn’t that interesting? Let’s take a look at the Chinese Zodiac!



Each of the Chinese Zodiac Signs

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Do You Know Why There Are No Cats in the Chinese Zodiacs?

A long time ago, people always forgot which year they were born in and could not figure out exactly how old they were. The Jade Emperor (玉皇大帝 [yù huáng dà dì]) came up with an idea for twelve animals to represent the year. Later, the 玉皇大帝 asked the Earth God (土地公 [tû dì gōng]) to give all the animals instructions on how to compete for one of the twelve zodiac spots.


The River-crossing Race

从:土地公 (From: The Earth God) “All animals are welcome to compete. The first twelve animals across the finish line will be chosen as the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.”


After the announcement, all the animals were excited and discussed the race. At that time, Cat ( [māo]) and Rat ( [shû]) were good friends. They got together to discuss how to cross the river because they couldn't swim. To gain more assistance in their endeavors, they decided to find Ox ( [niú]) to help them cross the river. The Ox promised the Rat and Cat that it would help in their journey to cross the river.


By the next morning, before the rooster ([]) woke up, the Ox, the Cat, and the Rat were already at the riverside. The Cat and the Rat climbed onto the back of the Ox, and they began to cross the river. The Cat began to sleep because he got up too early, and the Rat was desperate to win first place.


Cat and Rat Crossing the River with the Help of the Ox

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When Ox was a few seconds away from the opposite bank of the river, Rat pushed Cat into the water and went into Ox’s ear.


As Ox climbed ashore and ran to the finish line, Rat jumped out of his ear and hurried to the finish line to win first place, and Ox came in second. Unfortunately, Cat never caught up to the rest of the animals competing for a space in the zodiac pantheon.


In order, the ranking of the zodiac is Rat([shû]), Ox([niú]), Tiger([]), Rabbit([]), Dragon([lóng]), Snake([shé]), Horse([]), Sheep([yáng]), Monkey([hóu]), Rooster([]), Dog([gôu]), and Pig([zhū]).



What is Your Sign?

The Chinese zodiac (生肖 [shēng xiāo]) is a repeating cycle of years. To determine your astrological sign, you would find the set of months that corresponds to your birthday. However, the Chinese zodiac is not synonymous with the term “astrological sign.” On the Western end, astrological signs refer to the month-by-month breakdown of the animal order while Chinese zodiacs are on a year-by-year basis. Each zodiac animal’s year occurs every twelve years. The zodiac sign years are shown below:



Find your birth year in one of the columns

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Chinese zodiac signs are a major influence on the Mandarin language. If you would like more information about how these influences affect the Mandarin language, consider taking a course with ReDefiners! We offer courses in Mandarin, Arabic, English, and Spanish. For more information, please contact mailto:info@redefinerswl.org.


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