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Ancient China was full of rich mythology and lore. Just like every other ancient civilisation, it's rich past has surpassed the sands of time. In ancient China, animals were symbolic of many things. Animals play an important role in the ancient Chinese astrology. The characteristics attributed to the zodiac signs were taken from animals that they represent. It is believed that Chinese Astrology, as we know it today, originated in Zhan Guo period i.e. around 5th century B.C. The integration of animals in Chineze zodiac was created during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 9 A.D.).
Among the many stories that are attributed to the origin of Chinese Astrology, one that is most famous is 'The Legend of Great Race'.
The legend of "The Great Race" is one of the most famous Chinese zodiac legend. According to the ancient chinese lore, Jade Emperor was one of the most important deity and was considered the ruler of Heaven. The legend has it that the Jade Emperor called upon all the animals of the Earth on his birthday to race against each other. To become the part of the zodiac, the animals had to cross a huge river. The rank of the animals in the race would be their position in the zodiac.
There are countless versions of this myth but the most revered one is recounted here:
The story starts with the cat and the rat being friends. One day The Rat heard about the race that was being organized by the Jade Emperor. He told The Cat about the race and the Cat asked the Rat to wake her up. Well, due to the excitement of participating in the race, the Rat forgot to wake the cat up. It is believed that the forgetfulness of the rat is also the reason behind the constant fight and hatred between the rat and the cat.
Every animal except the cat participated in the Race. When the time came to cross the river, the rat asked the Ox whether he would help him cross the river. Ox said yes and the rat jumped on the back of the ox. When the Ox reached the other side of the river, the rat grasping the opportunity jumped on the land and ran to touch the feet of the Jade Emperor. Hence, it became the first sign in the zodiac. Ox came second so he was placed after the rat. The next animal to arrive was the Tiger, than the rabbit came who used stones and a log to get across. The fifth animal to finish the race was the Dragon. The dragon stopped to help pull the rabbit's log across the river. After the Dragon, Horse would have been the sixth zodiac but was defeated by the snake that hid in the horse's hooves and reached before him. Hence, the horse was the 7th zodiac. The eighth position was held by the Sheep, then Monkey and the rooster. 11th was the dog and the pig was the last.
Thereby creating the entire zodiac system as we know today.
Elements are the aspects that influence the personality of the zodiac sign. There are 5 elements in the Chinese Astrology and each zodiac belongs to one of these 5 elements. The elements in the Chinese Astrology are independent of each other but they also highly influence each other. Chinese elements create and destroy each other.
There are 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs which are as follows:
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