Chinese New Year Reading Comprehension

Motivate readers with this free printable Chinese New Year reading passage for 3rd grade and up. Read and test reading comprehension with the online quiz or print and use offline.

The Legend of the Zodiac

The Chinese calendar follows a 12-year pattern, the Zodiac, with each year named after an animal. There are many legends about how the animals were chosen for the Zodiac. One of the more popular legends is this:

Long ago, the Jade Emperor, who ruled the Heavens, wanted twelve animals to represent the twelve calendar years. So he invited all animals to take part in a swimming race. The first 12 animals to cross the river would appear on the Zodiac in the order they finished the race.

At that time, the Cat and the Rat were very good friends and planned to go to the race together. The day came and the Cat decided to have a nap so that he could be in good form. He asked his friend: "Could you please wake me up when it's time for the race?"

"Have a good nap. I will wake you up," said the Rat. But when the time came, the Rat wanted to win so badly, he left the Cat sleeping and went alone.

In the race, the Ox, the best swimmer, took the lead. When the Ox was near the end, the sly Rat jumped on the Ox's head and then right onto the riverbank to finish first!

The Jade Emperor was very pleased and named the first year of the Zodiac after the Rat. The second year of the Zodiac was named after the Ox. The Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig followed and found their places on the calendar.

When the Cat found out what the Rat had done, he was very angry. The two became enemies. Because of the Rat, the Cat is not one of the twelve animals of the Zodiac. It is why cats have chased rats ever since!
How many animals are in the Chinese Zodiac calendar?
7
10
12
12 Which animal came in last place?
the Pig
the Ox
the Snake
the Pig Of all the animals in the race, who was the best swimmer?
the Dog
the Rat
the Ox
the Ox Who named the animals that represent the years of the Zodiac?
the Rat
the Jade Emperor
the last Emperor of China
the Jade Emperor What kind of contest did the Jade Emperor have to select the animals?
a quiz
a running race
a swimming race
a swimming race Of the Goat, the Horse, and the Dog, which animal was fastest?
the Goat
the Horse
the Dog
the Horse Why did the Cat nap before the race?
He was tired.
to rest up so he'd be in good shape
The Emperor told him to rest.
to rest up so he'd be in good shape Why didn't the Rat wake up the Cat?
The Rat wanted to win the race.
He forgot.
He couldn't find the Cat
The Rat wanted to win the race. How did the Rat win the race?
He swam the fastest.
He jumped on the Ox's head and onto the riverbank.
The Ox pushed the Rat to shore.
He jumped on the Ox's head and onto the riverbank. Why is the Cat not one of the twelve Zodiac animals?
The Jade Emperor didn't like cats.
The Cat swam too slowly.
The Cat missed the race.
The Cat missed the race.

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