The Chinese animal zodiac is a rotating cycle of twelve animals, with a different one for each year.
These recurring animals represent a concept of time used for dating the Chinese years.
The Chinese lunar calendar is based on the cycle of the moon, which is different to the western solar calendar, with the beginning of the Chinese year falling somewhere between late January and early February.
China adopted the western calendar in 1911 but they still celebrate the Chinese New Year, giving them a double celebration.
Most Chinese calendars have the dates for both the Western and Chinese New Year printed on them.
The Chinese New Year is celebrated on a different date from the western New Year because it is based on the movement of the moon and it also falls on a different date each year.
Therefore, those born between late January and early February may find their birth year falls in different years between the western New Year and the Chinese New Year.
According Chinese legend, the animals argued over the order of the cycle.
They agreed to ask their gods to decide and to abide by their decision.
The gods decided that the animals would race across a river, and that each animal's position in the cycle would be determined by its place in the race.
On the day of the race the twelve animals gathered on the riverbank.
As the race began, the rat jumped onto the ox's back, and as the ox reached the other side of the riverbank the rat jumped off its back and won the race.
This is why the rat is first, the ox second, and the last animal in the race, the boar is the last animal in the cycle.
And so the rotating cycle of twelve animals used traditionally for naming the years in China was established, with each animal year being repeated every twelve years.
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