WildChina > WildChina > Happy Year of the Rat!

Written by Collin Fifer

Chinese New Year begins on Saturday, January 25 and ushers in the Year of the Metal Rat. Find out all you need to know, and more, about Rats.

The Legend 

There’s an old Chinese story that goes like this: To name the 12 years in the lunar calendar cycle, the wise Jade Emperor invited selected animals to compete in a race across the local river. The order of their arrival would determine their position in the calendar (with one animal unfortunately missing out on a spot). 

Each animal used its particular skill set to successfully cross the river. The clever but sneaky Rat tricked the kind and diligent Ox into carrying him across the river. When they made it to the other side, the Rat jumped off the Ox and ran straight to the finish line, coming in first place. And so, the first animal on the zodiac was the Rat, with the Ox coming in second.  

Next came the proud Tiger, who swam fiercely across the river, but his water-logged fur slowed him down. Following closely behind was another fast and competitive animal, the Rabbit, who made it across the deep water by hopping between rocks and a floating log. 

In fifth place was the brave and helpful Dragon (the only mythical creature on the zodiac), who, although he could have easily won by flying across, stopped to help a village in need. (He also helped the Rabbit by blowing the log across to the other side.) 

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Image by Mathew Schwartz

The Horse bounded across the river after the Dragon, but unbeknownst to him, the Snake had wrapped himself around the Horse’s leg. When they came to the finish line, the Snake jumped forwards for sixth place, startling the Horse and making him step backwards into seventh place.  

The Monkey, a sociable and intelligent creature, worked together with the Goat and the Rooster. The three shared a raft that the Rooster had found. The Goat and Monkey cleared the weeds, helping to push the raft to the shore. And so, the Goat, the Monkey, and the Rooster came in 8th, 9th, and 10th, respectively.  

And the last two animals? Well, they got a bit distracted. The 11th animal, the Dog, being as playful as you’d expect, stopped to have a splash around. And finally, the Boar. He got a bit peckish on his way to the finish line, so he stopped, ate, and promptly fell asleep. Luckily the Emperor waited long enough for him to wake up and waddle across the river, coming in last place and 12th on the zodiac calendar.  

(Wondering who missed out? The Rat and the Cat had originally jumped on the Ox’s back together. But on their way across, the Rat pushed the Cat off the Ox and into the river. According to the story, it is the reason why cats and rats hate each other today!) 

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2020: Year of the Rat 

2020 is the Year of the Rat, which means that if you were born in the year 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, or 2008, you are a member of this rich group. Literally. According to the Chinese zodiac, Rats represent wealth and surplus. People born in a Year of the Rat are said to by likable by all, sensitive to other’s emotions, but stubborn in holding fast to their opinions. They are known as quick-witted, adaptable, charming, and persuasive people.  


People born in the Year of the Rat are most compatible with those born in the years of the Ox, Monkey, or Dragon. The rat’s compatibility with the Ox seems fitting, as the Rat rode on the back of the Oacross the river and jumped off at the last minute to claim first place in the zodiac order.  


Lucky colors for Rats are believed to be blue, gold, and green while the unlucky colors are yellow and brown. Their lucky numbers are two and three, while the numbers five and nine are believed to bring Rats bad luck.  


Rats are thought to be creative, imaginative, and independent, making them great fits to become writers, artists, or editors. They are also attributed as alert and attuned to fine detail which makes them more likely to enjoy technical jobs such as engineering or architecture. However, Rats are believed to lack the necessary courage and leadership to take on the mantle of jobs like being a police officer, politician, or entrepreneur.  


When it comes to money, Rats are seen as financially sound. They tend to make good decisions and are of a sound mind money-wise. It is recommended, though, that they do not make investments with friends. This decision is sure to cause money problems and degrade the friendship. 

Famous Rats 

William Shakespeare, Samuel L. Jackson, Eminem, Richard Nixon, Prince Harry, Mark Zuckerberg, Haruki Murakami, Idris Elba 

This Coming Year 

Traditionally, a zodiac’s year proves to be less than beneficial for that animal. It is predicted that Rats going through 2020 will experience some turmoil regarding their health and relationships. They should be quick to visit the doctor at the first sign of illness and loving and open to important relationships in their life.  

On the sunny side, Rats will see many benefits in their career in 2020. Their hard work will be noticed and their creativity and attention to detail will pay off fruitfully. Be sure to save, invest, and enjoy the finer things in life while they’re around.  

2020 is also the year of the Metal Rat. The last year of the Metal Rat was in 1960, way back to the beginning of this sixty-year cycle. Metal Rats are said to live stable lives, sometimes be lucky enough to hold some power, and be capable of turning unfortunate events into beneficial ones. 

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To all the Metal Rats and other Rats out there: enjoy your year! To everyone else, we wish you a Happy New Year and all the best in the Year of the Rat.