Storyteller: According to Chinese lunar calender, the Chinese new year is coming soon. In 2009, Jan 25th is the new year eve; Jan 26th is new year’s day.We are going to say goodbye to the awful 2008 (the year of rat) and hello to a brand new 2009 (the year of ox). If you have some impression about Chinese zodiac 12 animals, probably you have a question in your mind: where is cat, why is cat not on the list? Don’t Chinese people love cat? Yes, we do. Since the domestication by ancient Egyptian, cat has become a worldwide house animal and one of the best friend of human beings. Chinese people love cats too. So why cat is not on the list? There are many explanations. Let’s start with folktales first.
One day, the Jade Emperor initially selected 12 animal, and told the cat to inform the rest 11, in which the rat is not included. The rat heard this information by eavesdropping when the cat told the ox. The rat secretly came to the heaven palace and registered for the first position before everyone else. The stupid Jade Emperor didn’t even check the authenticity of the Rat’s registration. Then the first informed Ox only got second position. Finished informing everyone and came back for his own position, did the cat only to find that no position left for him anymore. So rat is the first and no cat. From then on, cat and rat became life enemies.
Once, the Jade Emperor thought it’s better to assign an animal for each year so people can remember the Zodiac cycle easier. So he decided to hold a meeting with all the animals and he will elect 12 of them to be the Zodiac animals in the meeting. At that time, cat and rat are close friends, just like brothers. They are very excited for the meeting and decided to go together. The cat is a sleepyhead, hardly woke up before noon. Night before the meeting, he ask the rat to wake him up the next morning. The rat agreed: No problem, take it easy, I will wake you up for sure! The cat felt assured and had a sweet dream. The next morning, the rat got up early and quietly, washed and brushed, left for the meeting alone.
When the cat woke up afternoon, he knew it’s too late. The news about newly selected 12 animals were everywhere; and the rat is the first of them. Felt betrayed by the rat, from then on, the cat turned into rat’s enemy. So that’s also why cats are always chasing after rats.
The two folktales above are the most typical and most funny ones. I like them. But probably you will doubt that’s the truth. 12 animals for the Chinese zodiac must have been developed in the early stage of Chinese civilization for hundreds of year until it become the current edition; and it’s very hard to investigate the real origin. As to the absence of Cat, most historians agree that Chinese zodiac 12 animal were formed before cats were introduced to China from India with Buddhism. So the answer is clear: There is no cat on the list because Chinese people never knew a cat at that time.
Just some additional information on this topic, although Vietnam adapted 12 animal zodiac from China, their edition is a little different. They have Cat in it, while Rabbit is dropped off. Why? Not sure. One explanation is that the “Rabbit” pronunciation in Chinese sounds like “Cat” in Vietnamese, so they made a mistake. (As the picture left shown.)
Ok, so much for the Cat and Zodiac, wish everyone a happy new year 2009, the year of ox (or bull).
[Recommended Reading on Amazon]
1. A story book about 12 animals: The Great Race
2. A book about Chinese Astrology: Chinese Astrology: Exploring The Eastern Zodiac
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