Today (February 5, 2019) marks the start of the Chinese New Year. Also known as Spring Festival, it's a time for huge, colourful celebrations as we welcome in the Year of the Pig. 2019 marks the end of a 12-year cycle, with it set to begin again with the Year of the Rat in 2020.



Most people are aware of the Chinese zodiac and the animals associated with it, but did you know that it's based on an ancient story about a grand race between 13 animals? Allow us to explain...

The Grand Race

The story goes that a long time ago, China's Jade Emperor decided to hold a grand race across a fast flowing river with the animals from his kingdom and he would name a year of the zodiac after each of the first 12 to complete the race.

The rat and the cat, who were very good friends, were smart enough to convince the ox to carry them across the river as they were not very good swimmers and the ox was the strongest one of all. However, the rat was cunning and pushed the cat into the river as they neared the shore, leapt from the ox and streaked towards the finish line landing in first place. The kind ox came in at second place.

The tiger used his mighty strength to reach the other side of the river, struggling against the strong currents, and was rewarded for his efforts with third place. Meanwhile, the rabbit hopped onto a log and floated to shore with the help of a gust of wind, coming in at fourth place.

The dragon landed at fifth place, surprising the Emperor who thought for sure he would be the first to arrive given that he could fly. 'I needed to make it rain because the village was suffering a drought', said the dragon. 'And then I noticed a rabbit struggling on a log in the river so I needed to blow some wind to help him across.'

The horse came next, but just as he neared sixth place, he realised that the snake was wrapped around his leg. He leapt back in shock, and so the snake slithered to sixth place instead, with the horse coming in seventh.

The goat, monkey and rooster came eighth, ninth and tenth after sharing a raft across the river, impressing the Emperor with their team work. The dog was the eleventh animal to arrive, despite being one of the best swimmers. But he had stopped to take a bath in the water along the way.

In the twelfth and final place came the pig, who was so hungry that he stopped to eat on the way and then fell asleep. As for the cat, when he eventually made it out of the water, he was too late to have a year named after him and so the cat and the rat have been enemies ever since.

More from Holly Mosley

Remember the order

If you struggle to remember the order of these twelve animals, we've come up with a helpful mnemonic to make it a little easier:

"Remember our terrible rhyme, dear stranger: Hugo goes mad reading depressing poetry."

(Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig)

What's your Chinese zodiac?

This year marks the Year of the Pig, which means that anyone born in 2019 will, according to Chinese legend, bear attributes associated with that animal. For example, the Pig is thought to be hard-working and responsible, while also enthusiastic and materialistic.

Work out your Chinese zodiac below:

Rat (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008)

Ox (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009)

Tiger (1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010)

Rabbit (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011)

Dragon (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012)

Snake (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013)

Horse (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014)

Goat (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015)

Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016)

Rooster (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017)

Dog (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018)

Pig (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019)

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