Learn Japanese with Old Folktales ー The reason for the order of the Chinese zodiac

Posted by on February 14, 2020 – Japanese Study

There are a total of 12 Chinese zodiac signs, in the following order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each sign is named after an animal, and each animal has a different and it’s own characteristics.

Do you know why the 12 zodiac animals are in this sequence mentioned above? According to Chinese folklore – “The Heavenly Gate Race Story” chronicles an epic race between the signs that finally determined their order in the calendar.

But did you know, that there was another animal that participated in the race, however, due to some circumstances, it was not chosen in the zodiac ranking. Continue reading to find out more!

The Heavenly Gate Race Story

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse、image, picture, photo, illustration

むかしむかし、にんげん も うまれて いない、おおむかし の ある とし の くれ の こと です。
Mukashi mukashi, ningen mo umarete inai, oomukashi no aru toshi no kure no koto desu.
A long time ago, at the end of the year when humans hadn’t come in the world yet,

かみさま が、どうぶつたち に いいました。
kamisama ga, doubutsutachi ni iimashita.
the God told animals,

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

「もうすぐ しょうがつ だ。がんたん には、みんな わたし の ところ に きなさい。
「Mousugu shougatsuda. Gantan niwa, minna watashi no tokoro ni kinasai.
“The New Year is coming soon. All of you come to my place on January 1st.

そして、さき に きた もの から じゅうにばんめ まで を、その とし の たいしょう と しよう」
Soshite, saki ni kita mono kara jyuunibanme made o, sono toshi no taishou to shiyou」
And I will make the one who come first till 12th as a leader of the year.”

ところが、うっかりもの の ネコ は あつまる ひ を わすれた ので、ともだち の ネズミ に ききました。
Tokoroga, ukkarimono no neko wa atsumaru hi o wasureta node, tomodachi no nezumi ni kikimashita.
 However, the careless cat forgot when to go to the God, and asked to his friend mouse.

すると ネズミ は、
suruto nezumi wa,
The mouse said,

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

「ああ、しんねん の ふつか だよ」
「aa, shinnen no futsuka dayo」
“It’s on January 2nd.

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

と、わざと うそ を おしえました。
to, wazato uso o oshiemashita.
and it was his lie on purpose.

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

さて、がんたん に なりました。
sate, gantan ni narimashita.
Now January 1st came.

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

ウシ は あし が おそい ので、あさ はやく に いえ を でました。
Ushi wa ashi ga osoi node, asa hayaku ni ie o demashita.
Because the cow walks so slow, he left home early in the morning.

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

ちゃっかりもの の ネズミ は、こっそり ウシ の せなか に のって かみさま の まえ に くる と、
Chakkarimono no nezumi wa, kossori ushi no senaka ni notte kamisama no mae ni kuru to,
The shrewd mouse rode on a back of the cow secretly, and when they arrived at the God’s,

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

ピョン と とびおりて いちばん さいしょ に かみさま の まえ に いきました。
pyon to tobiorite ichiban saisho ni kamisama no mae ni ikimashita.
he jumped off from the cow and went to the God first.

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

それで ネズミ が さいしょ の とし の たいしょう に なり、ウシ が にばんめ に なりました。
Sorede nezumi ga saisho no toshi no taishou ni nari, ushi ga nibanme ni narimashita.
That’s why the mouse became a leader of the first year and the cow became second.

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

そのご、トラ・ウサギ・タツ・ヘビ・ウマ・ヒツジ・サル・ニワトリ・イヌ・イノシシ の じゅん に なりました。
Sonogo, tora, usagi, tatsu, hebi, uma, hitsuji, saru, niwatori, inu, inoshishi no jyun ni narimashita.
After that, the order became the tiger, the hare, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the chicken, the dog, and the boar.

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

ところが ネコ は、ネズミ に おしえられたとおり ふつか に かみさま の ところ へ いきました。
tokoroga neko wa, nezumi ni oshieraretatoori futsuka ni kamisama no tokoro e ikimashita.
But the cat went to the God’s on 2nd as the mouse taught.

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

すると かみさま は、
Suruto kamisama wa,
Then the God said,

「おそかったね。ざんねん だけど、きのう きまったよ」
「Osokattane. Zannen dakedo, kinou kimattayo」
“You are too late. Sorry, but the leaders were determined yesterday.”

と、いう では ありませんか。
to, iu dewa arimasenka.
Is it not.

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

くやしい の なんの。
Kuyashii no nanno.
How frustrating it was for the cat.

「ネズミ め、よくも だましたな!」
「Nezumi me, yokumo damashitana!」
“How dare the mouse cheat me!”

Japanese Folklore ー The Reason Why Cats Run After Mouse, image, photo, picture, illustration

おこった ネコ は、それから ずっと、ネズミ を みる と おいかける よう に なりました。
Okotta neko wa, sorekara zutto, nezumi o miru to oikakeru you ni narimashita.
Since then, the angry cat ran after the mouse when he saw the mouse.

おしまい
Oshimai
The end

Last Updated on