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This Chinese new year is the year of the rat. Did you ever wonder how each Chinese year was assign an animal. Read the following children’s play and you will find out.
Characters: Three narrators, three Jade Emperors, rat, cat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, horse, snake, goat, rooster, monkey, dog and boar.
(Stage directions: three narrators on the left hand side of the stage. All the other characters walk around the stage showing confusion on their faces.)
Narrator 1: Long time ago in China. There was no such thing as time.
Narrator 2: Because there was no such thing as time, no one knew when to get up, or when to have their dinner or when to go to school or even when to play and have fun.
Narrator 3: Nobody did anything at the same time.
Narrator 1: The Jade Emperors who were the Emperors of Heaven knew this was a problem. (The Jade Emperors are standing on chairs looking down on all the chaos.)
Narrator 2: They decided to do some thing about it.
Jade Emperor 1: What are we going to do?
Jade Emperor 2: Everything is in chaos.
Jade Emperor 3: No one knows when to do things.
Jade Emperor 1: We have to come up with a way of measuring time.
Jade Emperor 2: Easier said then done.
Jade Emperor 3: How will we measure it?
Jade Emperor 1: Well, I have an idea.
Jade Emperor 2 and 3: Oh please, tell us.
Jade Emperor 1: Well, we could have a swimming race and the first twelve animals across the line will have a year named after them.
Jade Emperor 2: That’s a wonderful idea. Let’s call the animals.
Narrator 3: All the animals were summoned and were told about the Jade Emperor’s solutions for creating time. (They mime calling the animals and having a conversation while the narrators are talking.)
Narrator 1: All the animals were excited and lined up.
Narrator 2: Both the cat and the rat knew they weren’t good swimmers so they asked to Ox to help.
Rat: Ox can you help us, because you are so strong?
Cat: And so kind.
Ox: Of course, jump on my back and I’ll help you get across the river.
(They all line up for the race and start swimming: the ox is in front with both the cat and rat on his back. They swim around for a while and just as they approach the end of the race the rat throws the cat off the ox’s back and jumps onto the ox’s back so he is the first to cross the line.)
Rat: I won! I won!
Jade Emperor 1: Well done. The first year in the zodiac will be known as the Year of Rat. (He gets off his chair and shakes the rat’s hand and gives him a medal.)
Ox: You tricked me, rat.
Jade Emperor 2: Never mind, the second year of the zodiac will be called after you. (He gets off his chair and shakes the ox’s hand and gives him a medal.)
Tiger: (struggling to swim against the current.) I am exhausted. I never swan so far before.
Emperor 3: The year of the tiger will be the third sign of the zodiac. (He gets off his chair and shakes the tiger’s hand and gives him a medal.)
Rabbit: (floating on a log) I am sorry to say I can’t swim. I hopped across on some stepping stones and then found a floating log which carried me to the shore.
Emperor 1: Well done, Rabbit. That showed imagination, so I am happy to name the fourth year after you. (He gets off his chair and shakes the rabbit’s hand and gives him a medal. Dragon comes swooping down.)
Emperor 2: Dragon, why are you so late? You should have won as you can fly as well as swim.
Dragon: I was in the lead but then I saw the rabbit on a log and he needed some help so I huffed and puffed so that the log reached the shore.
Emperor 2: Well that was very kind of you and now you are here you will have the fifth year of the zodiac named after you. (He gets off his chair and shakes the dragon’s hand and gives him a medal.)
Horse: Neigh! Neigh! I am going to be the sixth year. (Horse comes galloping in with the snake next to him. Snake sneaks up behind and scares him.)
Snake: Boo! (Horse jumps back.) No, Horse, I am going to be the sixth year of the zodiac.
Horse: Well, I suppose I’ll have to settle with (for?) seventh place. I don’t mind as seven is a lucky number. (Emperors shake their hands and give them their medals.)
Narrator 1: Not long afterwards a raft arrived carrying the goat, the monkey and the rooster.
Goat: We shared the raft that the rooster found.
Rooster: The monkey and goat helped me push the raft into the water.
Monkey: We worked really well together.
Emperor: I am very pleased you worked as a team. The goat can be the eighth zodiac animal, the monkey the ninth and the rooster the tenth. (He shakes their hands and gives them medals.)
Goat, Rooster Monkey: Hurrah, we can stay together on the calendar. (The dog arrives very slowly.)
Emperor 2: Dog, where have you been? You are the best swimmer out of all the animals.
Dog: The river was so clean I decided to have a bath.
Emperor 3: Well, as you are so late then you will have to settle for eleventh place. We have only one place left. (He gets off his chair and shakes the dog’s hand and gives him a medal. The boar comes along.)
Emperor 1: Where have you been, boar? You nearly missed out on the last place.
Boar: It was such a lovely day I decided to stop and have a rest. I am here now and I am the final zodiac animal.
Emperor 2: Congratulations. (He gets off his chair and shakes the boar’s hand and gives him a medal. Cat struggles out of the water. He is not happy.)
Emperor 3: I am sorry, cat, all the places are gone.
Cat: (starts crying) Boo, hoo. I will never forgive the rat.
Narrator 2: Since then cats have never been friends with rats.
(All the animals line up in order and take a bow. The cat is in the corner sulking.)
For some drama activities based on Chinese New Year, click here.
Check out there following free children’s plays