Posted on | August 1, 2010 | 5 Comments
The twelve animals of the Japanese zodiac (Juni Shi) were introduced into Japan from China. According to Chinese legend, the Jade Emperor chose the animals that would become the twelve zodiac signs as they arrived before him to show their respects. The rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, cock, dog, and boar appeared in that order.
In Japan, the tradition of naming years after animals is said to come directly from a Buddhist legend. Buddha called all the animals of the world together to honor him, but only twelve appeared; each was given a year in the order of its arrival as a reward for faithfulness. The legend also says that the ox was actually first to arrive, but the rat, having hitched a ride on the ox’s back, leaped ahead of the ox and presented itself to Buddha first.
There are variations of this story from both the Japanese and Chinese perspectives. Most people wonder why the dog and not the cat was included as one of the twelve years. In one Chinese version of the story, the Jade Emperor put the rat in charge of extending the imperial invitation for the animals to assemble. Although the cat was a good friend of the rat at the time, the rat forgot to invite him; thus the cat became the rat’s natural enemy.
Whichever legend you’d like to believe, all twelve animals of the Oriental zodiac are considered lucky. It is also thought that you can tell a lot about a person by what zodiac year they were born in, very similar to the Western idea of astrological signs. Once you know someone’s animal year, you can also calculate their age, unless they either look twelve years older or younger than their chronological years!
Click here to link to another website for more information on the Japanese zodiac and find the animal sign and personality traits associated to your birth year.