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The Folk Origin Story of the 2024 Chinese Zodiac Order

  • 07
    2024
    3 月
    9:04 上午
  • 31

Selection of Zodiac Animals

According to Han Chinese folklore, the Yellow Emperor once tried to select twelve animals as palace guards for his palace. When Cat asked Rat to sign on its behalf and sign for it on her behalf – however Rat forget and thus excluded Cat and led to their growing disfavor. An elephant attempted to compete, but was dissuaded from doing so when a rat crawled into its trunk and discomfited its owner. Initially, the ox was expected to lead; however, once a rat had jumped onto its back causing chaos from pig interference it ended up first and not last in line for first place. Dissatisfied with their positions, the tiger and dragon were appointed kings of mountains and seas respectively. Not taking this well, rabbit raced against dragon to get ahead; dog felt injustice was done and bit rabbit, being penalized with one of the last places. Snake, horse, goat, monkey and rooster also vied for positions, culminating in the zodiac order as it exists today: Rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon snake horse goat monkey rooster dog and pig. These tales don’t provide scientific justification of this order but instead reflect our desire to rationalize how twelve zodiac animals for 2024 would be selected.

Antient Scholars on Zodiac and Time

Ancient Chinese scholars articulated a concept which included earthly branches, associated animals, and the division of each day into 12 periods from an understanding that interweaves nature with cosmic symbolism.

At midnight, when all was chaos and darkness reigned supreme, a rat emerged to chew through it all and open the heavens – this period became known as “rat opening the heavens”. Later, during an ox’s time of plowing fields, earth itself also “opened up”.

At dawn, tiger time symbolized both birth and mortality – symbolised by their fearsome nature – while rabbit’s hour represented sun rising and moon essence; its essence being associated with this time.

March marked a season of rains, making the dragon an emblem of this period. April brought lush grasses that allowed snakes to thrive as if in water. At midday’s peak of yang energy, horse leaping yet grounded personified the balance between yin and yang energies while simultaneously marking its time.

Due to late afternoon goat grazing times and its association with late afternoon, late afternoon marks an especially busy period for goats. By evening’s end when monkeys begin calling out and leaping around again, monkeys have claimed their moment in time as they do every year.

At dusk when the moon rises, when dusk-roosters take flight, their time corresponds with water element; their call represents solar-lunar balance.

At nightfall, when guarding duties are performed by the dog, their association to this hour becomes clear. At midnight when everything encased by darkness returns into chaos like fruit’s core, then consumption and oblivion mark its end as Zhu Xi noted in his Song Dynasty philosophy work.


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