The Great Race: A Children’s Story For Chinese New Year 


Chinese New Year 2021: Year of the Ox

The year of the Metal Yin Ox is about to begin. Chinese New Years are determined by the lunar, or moon, cycle, and this year, the beginning of the Year of the Ox is on February 12, 2021. As we move out of the year of the Rat, a year that was forecasted to be all about immunity and challenge to our sense of community, we welcome the year of the Ox.

Chinese new year OX

The Ox year is another Yin year, which will allow us to focus on internal mindsets, meditation, and quiet determination. It is also a Metal year, which should lead to more focus on science, organization, and cleanliness. As an Ox year, a slow and steady, determined mindset will influence us.

To understand the Chinese Lunar Calendar, you need to know that we are all born under a zodiac animal, and because of the ever-changing lunar cycle, the beginning and ending of each lunar year changes annually. You can use a Chinese zodiac calculator to determine the animal that corresponds with your birth date.

Chinese New Year oxClick here to enter your birthday to find your Chinese zodiac animal.

There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac and the story of the Great Race is about how each animal became chosen for the calendar. My children have enjoyed hearing this tale every year and then reading our individual forecasts for our animal for the year. I hope your family does too!

The Great Race

chinese pagoda

Many, many years ago in China, the Jade Emperor needed to choose animals to be his guards. He decided he would hold a contest, a race, and invited all the animals in the kingdom to compete. The first 12 animals that crossed the finish line at the Jade Emperor’s palace would be the 12 guards of the Emperor and the 12 animals of the zodiac.

All of the animals in the kingdom wanted to receive the high honor of being the Jade Emperor’s guard and so they all competed in the Great Race. Each used their unique skills, personalities, and smarts to compete.

On your mark. Get set go.

The animals were off, and the first to get a head start was the quick rat, with his neighbor the cat right along with him. They raced ahead of even Tiger and Rabbit, who were the fastest animals. In the rear of the pack were Horse and Goat, who were kind and protective and made sure everyone was safe in the pack before they got going.

The Great Race covered a long and windy trail and included a wide and rushing river. The animals would have to find a way to cross the river to reach the Jade Emperor’s palace. Rat and Cat had arrived at the river first but could not cross it, because they were too small. Tiger and Rabbit arrived next and used their competitive skills to cross the river. Rabbit hopped across the stones of the river while Tiger swam strongly against the current.

Soon Ox arrived at the banks of the river. As the strong Ox got into the river, quick thinking and resourceful Rat hopped onto his back. Cat followed. Ox knew the small animals were on his back but did not mind. His diligence and dependability caused him to swim on.

As Dragon flew over the river, Monkey swang from branch to branch across it. The animals were coming close to the other side of the river and the finish line.

The race was close and Rat got worried he might not be one of the animals chosen if he didnt act. In one quick move, he pushed his friend Cat off the Ox’s back, Cat swam back to the start of the race and did not make it into the Chinese zodiac.

chinese pagoda

The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

Ox was the first to make it to the other side of the river. He leaned forward, dropped his head, allowing Rat to disembark and race to the finish line and win the race. Rat became the first animal of the Chinese Zodiac, with Ox following second.

Next arrived the fast Tiger and then Rabbit. The beautiful Dragon and Snake were next. The kindness of Horse and Goat paid off and they arrived 7th and 8th. And although the Monkey had been distracted by the fun of swinging, he made it in 9th. The last 3 animals were Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

These 12 animals are now the animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

Chinese New Year animals

This is an old story and there are variations as it gets passed down. Some say the Jade Emperor wanted a way to measure seasons, not choose guards. And some say Cat never showed up to the race and Rat did not push Cat in.

Children’s Books and Resources for Chinese New Year

child reading book

My family and I have loved reading the following books about Chinese New Year and The Great Race:

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Great Race 

Ruby’s Chinese New Year 

Storytelling is how traditions are passed down through generations, and how I’ve heard this story over the years and told my children. In acupuncture school, my Chinese teachers would host huge banquets for Chinese New Year celebrations. The foods that were prepared were intentionally chosen for health and traditional reasons, like the Long Life Noodles that were prepared to promote longevity.

Share this fun story with your children and be sure to check out these posts from our Sister Sites to learn more about traditional Chinese New Year.

“Gung hay fat choy” – Celebrating Chinese New Year

Lunar New Year :: Celebrating the Spring Festival

The Great Race: A Children’s Story For Chinese New Year 


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