It is said Buddha (the ultimate Emperor for the whole universe in Chinese legend) once called together all the animals on the earth for an important meeting. Only twelve animals turned up: the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig. The rat, being the smartest, jumped on top of the ox to be the first one to arrive.
As a reward, the Buddha gave each animal a year in the cycle and declared that anyone born in that year would resemble the animal in some way. In addition, each two hours of the day is also governed by one animal. The hours of 11pm to 1:00 am is by Rat, from 1 am to 3 am by Ox and so on. Six elements of the planet: wood, fire, air, water, gold and earth are also integrated into the animal Zodiac signs.
在上述介绍里，您可能会看到“zodiac”一词，其实啊，它就是让老外了解“十二生肖”的契机所在。“十二生肖”相应的英文表达是“the Chinese Zodiac”。
“Zodiac”一词来自希腊语“zodiakos”(动物园)，在希腊人眼中，星座是由各种不同的动物形成，这也是十二个星座名称的由来。由此，中国本土化的“zodiac”——the Chinese Zodiac——自然就是指“十二生肖”了。