The Jade Emperor and The Twelve Animals
This story reveals how the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven, decided which animals
to choose and the order of importance in which they should be placed.
The Jade Emperor ruled the heavens and all they contained but he had never been
to earth, and he wondered about the shapes and colour of all its creatures. One
day he summoned his chief adviser.
I have ruled for many years, said the Emperor, but I have never seen this strange
animal. What do they look like? I want to see their features and characteristics;
I would like to observe the way that they move and hear the sounds that they make.
How intelligent are they, and how do they help humanity?
The adviser told him that there were thousands of earthly creature-some walked,
others flew, some crawled and others slithered. It would take many months to gather
examples of each and present them. Did his majesty want to see them all.
No, I shall not waste too much time. Select the twelve most interested animals and
bring them to me so I can grade them according to colour and shape.
The adviser thought of all the animals he knew and decided to send an invitation
to the rat, and told him, in turn to give an invitation to his friend the cat. Further
invitations were went to the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the
horse, the ram, the money, the rooster and the dog asking them to present themselves
before the Emperor at six o'clock the following morning.
The rat was proud the receive this invitation and immediately set off to reveal
the good news to the cat. The cat was also overjoyed but , afraid the she might
oversleep, made the rat promise to wake her in time. That night the rat pondered
on how handsome and sleek the cat was and how ugly he would appear in comparison.
He decided that the only way to prevent the cat taking all the praise was to let
her oversleep the following morning.
At six o'clock eleven animals lined up before the Jade Emperor who slowly inspected
them. When he came to the end of the line he turned to his adviser.
They are all interesting but why are there only eleven animals?
The adviser had no answer but quickly sent a servant down to earth to catch the
first animal he saw and bring it back to heaven. The servant arrived on country
road and saw a farmer carrying a pig market.
Please stop, entreated the servant, I need your pig now; The Jade Emperor wants
to see this creature immediately. Think of the honour of displaying this pig to
the ruler of heaven.
The farmer was duly impressed by the servant's news and so he handed over his pig,
which was then carried off to the parade.
Meanwhile the rat was afraid he would go unnoticed and so he jumped on the ox's
back and began to play a flute. The Emperor was so charmed by this unusual animal
that he gave him first place. The Jade Emperor then gave the ox second place since
he had been generous enough to let the rat sit on his back. The tiger looked courageous
and was given third place, and the rabbit, because of his fine white fur, was given
fourth place. The Emperor thought the dragon looked like a powerful snake with legs
and so he placed him fifth. The snake was sixth because of his curving, sinuous
body, the horse seventh because of his elegant bearing, and the ram eighth because
of his strong horns.
The monkey was agile and alert so was given ninth place, the rooster had such fine
feathers he was tenth, and the watchful and protective dog was given eleventh place.
The pig stood at the end of the line; he may not have been as interesting as the
others but he was allowed the final place.
When the ceremony had finished the cat came running into the place and begged the
Emperor to consider her, but it was too late the animals had been chosen. When the
cat saw the rat standing in first place she chased him with intent to kill. This
is why, even today, a cat and rat cannot be friends.