Thousands of years ago, the Jade Emperor decided to assign an animal’s name to every year, in order to simplify the calendar for the people of China. A swimming race amongst twelve animals across the mighty river was organized to determine the sequential order in which year they would appear. This would become the Shengxiao, the Chinese zodiac.
It is a well known that the rat, the winner of the race, cheated. Nevertheless, this oversight established an order that has remained a celebrated tradition for centuries.
In the interest of fairness, I proposed a rematch!
Working with local artists and communities along the canals of Zhujiajiao, China in April 2012, I restaged this race. All of the zodiac animals were represented by actual live animals. Each was ferried separately through the canals in boats paddled by expert rowers from the community. In addition, each boat was decorated by a different local artist according to the animal it carried.