admin 41 2021-09-23 19:40:17




The Spring Festival is just around the corner, we will ring in the Year of the Rat. It also marks the first year of a new round of the Chinese zodiac, since the rat is the first in the cycle of 12 Chinese zodiac signs.


zodiac [ˈzəʊdiæk]:n.属相

To those who might not be quite familiar with the zodiac, it is a repeated cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal. The cycle begins with the Year of the Rat, and goes through Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, ending with the Year of the Pig.一些人还不太熟悉生肖,它是一个重复的十二年循环,每一年都有一个动物代表。生肖周期从鼠年开始,之后是牛、虎、兔、龙、蛇、马、羊、猴、鸡、狗,直到猪年结束。

It is not difficult to notice that the rat is the smallest animal in the group, so how comes it ranks on top of the list? Well, there are several explanations.不难发现,老鼠是十二生肖中最小的动物,那么它是怎么排在首位的呢?对此有几种解释。



One Explanation: Terrestrial Branches


The 12 Chinese zodiac signs are based on the 12 Terrestrial Branches. Ancient Chinese people invented the system based on observations of the orbit of Jupiter, which has a 12-year rotation basis.中国的十二生肖以十二地支为基础。中国古人根据对木星轨道的观测发明了这一系统,木星的公转周期为12年。

Chinese people named each of the Terrestrial Branches, and use them to mark the year, month, date, as well as different periods of the day. Therefore, Jupiter is also known as the "Year Star" in ancient China.中国人给每一个地支命名,用它们来标记年、月、日以及一天中的不同时间。因此,木星在中国古代也被称为“年星”。

The order of the zodiacs was based on their habits and activity time during the day. For example, the rats usually come out around midnight, therefore it is arranged at the beginning of the Terrestrial Branches, referring to the period between 23:00 pm and 1:00 am.十二生肖的顺序是根据动物们一天的习惯和活动时间来确定的。例如,老鼠通常在午夜前后出来活动,因此它被安排在地支的首个,用来指午夜23点到凌晨1点之间的时间。

Likewise, the ox is the second because the animal ruminates after 1:00 am, and the tiger comes next for it is believed to start wondering around preying between 3:00 to 5:00 in the morning. The same order was transplanted to the arrangement of the 12 zodiac signs.同样的,牛排在第二位,因为它在凌晨1点之后开始反刍,而老虎排在第三位,因为人们认为老虎在凌晨3点到5点之间开始四处捕食。十二生肖都以此排序。

ruminate[ˈruːmɪneɪt]:vt. 反刍

Without any records on archives, this is the most believable explanation, since it is more of a summary of the ancient people's observation of nature. Most of the ancient systems used by the Chinese were created in the same way. 在没有任何记载的情况下,这是最可信的解释,因为它更像是古人对自然的观察总结。中国人使用的大多数古代系统同样按此创造。



Another Explanation: folk stories


Where there is unknown, there are mythology and folk stories. Mystery generates stories and legends. 哪里有未知,哪里就有神话和民间故事。故事和传说都来源于未解之谜。

Being the smallest of the 12 animals and the one on top of the list, the rat has been faced with various kinds of questions and challenges since the very beginning. There are many stories to explain this.作为十二生肖中最小的,也是排名第一的动物,老鼠从一开始就面临着各种各样的问题和挑战。有很多故事可以解释这一点。

In the most widely known version, Huangdi, or the Yellow Emperor, known as a deity and ancestor of the Chinese people, called on all animals to get registered for the 12 zodiac when the country firstly settled and the animals were placed in a "first come, first serve basis." All the animals got up early in the morning and hurried to the destiny except the rat, which found a shortcut by hiding on the ox's back. When the Yellow Emperor starts to give them orders, the rat standing on the head of the ox was named first.在最广为人知的版本中,黄帝(中国人的神和祖先)号召所有的动物在国家初建之时登记十二生肖,以“先到先得”为原则。所有的动物都起了大早,匆匆赶往目的地,只有老鼠例外,它找到了一条捷径,藏在牛背上。当黄帝开始下令时,站在牛头上的老鼠被命名为十二生肖之首。

In some other versions, the rat was also said to have forgotten to wake up the cat, which therefore lost the qualification to be listed as one of the zodiac signs. Since then, the friendship died and they became enemies.在其他一些版本中,据说老鼠忘记叫醒猫,因此猫失去了被列入十二生肖的资格。从那以后,它们的友谊就结束了,成了敌人。

Everybody knows that folk stories are fictional, but it doesn't stop them from being told from generation to generation. 每个人都知道民间故事是虚构的,但这并不妨碍这些故事代代相传。



The image of rat in the Chinese zodiac


No matter how the rat made into the Chinese zodiac in the first place, being part of the group has already changed its destiny and expanded the cultural connotations of the little animal.无论老鼠最初是如何进入十二生肖的,成为这个群体的一员已经改变了它的命运,老鼠的文化内涵得以扩展。

The zodiac sign of the rat represents qualities like intelligent, flexible and vigorous. People born in the Year of the Rat are also believed to be blessed with such qualities. In some Chinese Kung Fu novels, the rat was also personalized in characters with chivalrous spirits.


chivalrous[ˈʃɪvəlrəs]:adj. 侠义的

There are also a lot of poems, proverbs, fairy tales themed around the animal, and it has been depicted by artists in traditional Chinese paintings and statues.中国有很多以老鼠为主题的诗歌、谚语、童话故事,中国传统绘画和雕塑中也有描绘。

But their image is not always positive. In Chinese culture, rats could also be considered cunning, greedy, and sneaky. 但老鼠的形象并不总是正面的。在中国文化中,老鼠也被认为是狡猾、贪婪和鬼鬼祟祟的。



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