Gong Hei Fatt Choy! 恭禧发财
Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, and the phrase above is the standard greeting when we meet others during this time. It means “Wishing you prosperity (in the coming year)”. Gong Hei Fatt Choy is the transliteration for the words as spoken in Cantonese, one of the many dialects in spoken Chinese language, and this is the dialect which I speak at home, although English is my first language.
2020 is the Year of the Rat, which marks the beginning of a new 12 year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac. Each 12 year cycle is associated with one of the five elements wood, fire, earth, water, and air.
I was born in a Rat year four cycles ago, so my Chinese Zodiac animal is a Water Rat. It is like having a personal daemon (à la Phillip Pullman), but shared with (approximately 7 billion divided by 12) other people born in the same animal years, and with the ascribed characteristics of the animal manifested in you.
Chinese legends tell of the Jade Emperor (Emperor of Heaven) wanting to devise a way of measuring time. To do this, he held a race for the animals, decreeing that the first twelve animals to reach the finish line would be designated as the twelve animals of the zodiac according to the order in which they completed the race.
The Great Race
Written and illustrated by: Christopher Corr
Published by: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
ISBN 13: 9781786037312
In The Great Race by Christopher Corr, clever (or sneaky) Rat wins the race through his smarts and denies Cat an eternal place in the Zodiac.
This is not the only book to retell this legend, and I’m looking forward to finding copies of these four other retellings: