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The Great Leap Forward: How The Rat Made The First Chinese Zodiac Sign

The Great Leap Forward: How The Rat Made The First Chinese Zodiac Sign

By Marini's, Food


As the Chinese New Year is approaching, we take this time to learn a little bit about the upcoming lunar year of the Metal Rat. For some, the rat does not come to mind when you first talk about the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, but did you know that the Rat is the first animal, and more interestingly why? 

The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac consist of these animals, in this order – Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each animal has an aspect to them, for example, Dragons are known to be confident and are believed to have a good life, so you will always see a surge of Chinese babies being born in that year. Monkeys are known to be clever and Tigers are known to be competitive. Rabbits are known for being responsible while Pigs are known to be generous. So how about the Rat? Well, Rats are known to be quick witted and industrious.

The Great Leap Forward

Many do not know why the Rat is the first animal in the zodiac sign, but there is a tale to this tail. As legend has it, the Jade Emperor instructed the creation of the Chinese calendar and instructed all the animals in the land to attend The Great Race, in which the order of the animals will be as such. The animals all started the race with some of the quicker animals like the Tiger and Ox sprinting ahead, and as quick witted as the Rat was, he rode on the back of the Ox all the way to the finish line, and as they were crossing the river, the Rat leapt across the finish line, making it the first animal of the Chinese zodiac. This is one of the reasons Rats are considered to be quick witted in Chinese culture.

The Five Elements And The Metal Rat

The Chinese believe in the balance of the five elements, and 2020 happens to be the year of the Metal Rat, however, the Chinese character for metal is more accurately translated as gold, and is also believed to be a prosperous for all the Chinese zodiac signs.

Year of The Cat

There are many cultures within the region that has been influenced by Chinese culture, including the Koreans, Japanese and Vietnamese. An interesting fact is that in the Vietnamese celebration of the new year, which is called Tết, has a slight variation from its Chinese counterparts. Instead of the animal Rabbit, they have a Cat. Legend has it that the Cat did not make it to the Chinese zodiac because the Rat pushed the Cat off its back making the Cat fall into the river making them life-long rivals. However, there is old belief that Vietnamese have a Cat instead of a Rabbit because the Vietnamese word for Cat is Meo while the Rabbit is Mao, where the Chinese word for Rabbit sounds similar to the Chinese word for Cat.

Celebrate the Year Of The Rat with Marini’s on 57

One of the most important rituals for the Malaysian Chinese is to have yee sang, also known as the prosperity toss. These auspicious dishes can be tasted at M Marini Caffe as well as Marimbar in PJ. With all the festivities and weeks long of celebration and eating, do try to make it for the afterparty at Marini’s on 57 where you can enjoy fireworks throughout the festive season.

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