Chinese Zodiac Story

It’s almost time for Chinese New Year and children love hearing about the Chinese Zodiac Story and the story of the Great Race. Here at Mrs Mactivity, we have a range of Chinese New Year Resources to help children learn about Chinese New Year and the Chinese Zodiac.

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A slide from our new Mrs Mactivity Zodiac story range.


The Story of Chinese New year

Many years ago in China, the Jade Emperor wanted to measure time to work out how old he was. He decided to have a swimming race with different types of animals, so he could give a name to each year of the Chinese zodiac. The position each animal came in the race would decide which year was named after them.

The Emperor invited thirteen animals down to the river to take part but he only needed twelve for his zodiac.


The animals were:
A tiger, a snake, a rat, a rabbit, a monkey, a dog, a pig, a cat, a rooster, a goat, a horse, an ox and even a dragon!


The animals were lined up for the race.
The Emperor explained that the winner would be the first one to have a year named after them.

The cat and rat realised that their swimming was not good enough for them to win. So they asked the ox if he could take them across the river. He agreed, as he was so kind.

The race started and the ox was soon ahead.

The ox was nearly on the other side of the river when there was a big splash! The sneaky sneaky rat had pushed the cat back into the water! Then, as the ox turned around to look, the rat jumped off his back and landed on the riverbank. The rat had won the race and the ox finished second.


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A slide from our new Mrs Mactivity Zodiac story range.


Next came the tiger and he was soon followed by the rabbit, who had bounced across on stones and logs.

The next one to finish was the mighty dragon.
The dragon could easily have come first but he was too busy helping others across to the land.

The snake and the horse came sixth and seventh. The horse had been frightened by the snake and the snake sneakily raced ahead!

Then the Emperor could see a small raft arriving at the riverbank. The goat, monkey and rooster had worked together and arrived on the river back safely. The Emperor was very pleased!

Just after them, two more animals arrived at the riverbank. The dog was one of the best swimmers but had taken his time by playing around in the lovely warm waters. The pig had been slow because he had taken a nap!

Although the Emperor now had twelve animals to use in his new zodiac, there was one animal still missing.

It was the cat!

The rat had pushed her off the ox into the water – which cats hate. So she went home, still angry with the rat and vowed that cats and rats would never be friends again!


Explore our Chinese New Year comprehension activity here

to check your children’s understanding of the story and to improve retrieval and inference skills.


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We love how @primarypurposefulplay  has used our alphabet road tracing activity!