A race for time 計年之爭

Sun, Feb 18, 2007 - Page 9

Once upon a time, before there was a solar or lunar calendar to help tell the time, the people of the world, at a loss, went to a temple to ask the Jade Emperor for help. The Jade Emperor thought for a long time and finally thought of a good idea: he would hold a race to cross a river among the animals. Based on the order in which the first twelve animals arrived at the other shore, they would rotate a position as monarch, and the year would be named after them. As soon as this announcement was made, all of the animals began intensely discussing this race that would decide the names of the twelve years.

At that time the cat and mouse were like two peas in a pod. When the cat heard about the race, he became a little nervous because he could not swim very well. His good friend the mouse told him, “Don't worry. Brother Ox is a very good swimmer, and I'll ask him to carry the two of us across the river!”

The day of the race finally arrived. Every animal arrived early because they were eager to win. When crossing the river, some animals swam their hearts out. The ox was the fastest among them. At this time, the mouse, sitting on the ox's back, suddenly thought of a naughty idea. He pushed the cat into the water with all his strength. The cat, not an expert swimmer, swallowed a great deal of water.

After a brief time, when he saw that the ox was near the finish line, the crafty mouse jumped off of the ox's back and became the first to land on the other shore, earning himself first place. The ox, on the other hand, finished second. After a time, the soaking wet tiger finally swam over. The rabbit finished fourth and the dragon fifth. The snake, the horse, the ram, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and finally the pig followed them.

Only then did the dripping wet cat hurriedly climb onto the shore, asking, “What place did I finish in?” The Jade Emperor said, “You're too late. The race is over!” When the cat knew that he had not earned a place, he angrily struck the mouse. The mouse, feeling guilty, could only run for his life. Since then, whenever a cat sees a mouse, he chases him with all his might while the mouse runs for his life.(TRANSLATED BY JASON COX)