• 30-minute musical play for grades 2-6
  • Includes the script, teacher's guide, and audio recording (which contains a vocal and instrumental version of each song)
  • Simple to do - no music or drama experience needed!

This fun multicultural folk tale reveals how twelve special animals got their places in the Chinese zodiac. It's long ago in ancient China and the Jade Emperor has a great idea: he'll set up a race across the river, and the first twelve animals to cross the finish line will represent the years in the Chinese zodiac. Will the Dog and the Pig ever make it across? Why is the Horse so annoyed at the Snake? How did the Rabbit arrive before the Dragon? Can the Rat really be the winner? And why is the Cat all wet?

Please scroll down to read the script, listen to the songs, read reviews, and get all the details about the play (plot, curriculum/content, educational standards, and vocabulary).

Item # Description Availability Qty Break Price Quantity
PLAY - For individual teachers or directors
Order 1 copy of play for each teacher/director who will be using it. Includes permission to print/photocopy for all participating actors. Mix and match 2 or more plays to get them for $35 each.
Downloadable Version of Play
- You will receive a PDF and MP3 files
Download 1
Printed Version of Play
- You will receive a Spiral-Bound Book and Audio CD
In Stock 1
Duo Version - Download AND Printed Book
- You will receive 1) a PDF and MP3 files, and 2) a Spiral-Bound Book and Audio CD
In Stock 1
SITE LICENSE VERSION OF PLAY - For whole schools or grade levels
Order 1 site license per school/site. Includes permission to print/photocopy for all participating students AND teachers. Why a site license? Because it's cheaper than ordering 3+ individual copies of the play.
Downloadable Version of Site License
- You will receive a PDF and MP3 files
Download 1 $90.00
Printed Version of Site License
- You will receive 3 copies of the Spiral-Bound Book and Audio CD
In Stock 1 $90.00
Extra/Replacement Audio Recordings
Downloadable Audio Files
- You will receive a ZIP file containing individual MP3s
Download 1 $12.00
Audio CD
In Stock 1 - 9
Downloadable Audio Files (MP3) + Audio CD
In Stock 1 $20.00
Sheet Music
Downloadable Sheet Music (PDF)
Download 1 $12.00
Printed Sheet Music
In Stock 1 $8.00
Downloadable Sheet Music (PDF) + Printed Sheet Music
In Stock 1 $16.00


Key Concepts

  • The Zodiac: what it is, what animals are in it and why
  • Animal symbolism (e.g. significance of the dragon, pig, dog, snake, rat, panda, tiger, etc.)
  • The Jade Emperor and his Guardian Lions
  • Topography: Yellow River (and the Hung-He Valley), China Sea, Yellow Sea, Himalayan Mountains, Taklamakan and Gobi Deserts
  • The Seven Necessities of Life: rice, tea, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, firewood
  • Yin and yang
  • Confucius
  • The Great Wall
  • Chinese inventions and discoveries: crossbow, horse harness, paper money, wallpaper, pasta, tofu, tea, ink, compass, kite, silk, porcelain, paper, wheelbarrow, collapsible umbrella, bristle toothbrush, moveable type, ice cream, rice cooking, fishing reel, gunpowder

The Tale of the Chinese Zodiac is a great complement to your curriculum resources in elementary school language arts. Students will act out the folk origins of the Chinese zodiac as they learn some light curriculum about Chinese culture and contributions. And, like all of our plays, this show can be used to improve reading, vocabulary, reading comprehension, performance and music skills, class camaraderie and teamwork, and numerous social skills (read about it!) -- all while enabling students to be part of a truly fun and creative experience they will never forget!

Publication Information

Author: John Heath (Book and Lyrics) and Mike Fishell (Composer)
ISBN: 978-1-886588-55-4
© 2012 Bad Wolf Press, LLC

Song Samples


This is the first third of the script.

RATS (3)

and a CHORUS composed of all students who are not playing roles on stage at the time.

(CLASS enters and fills the back of the stage or room. The EMPEROR and TWO GUARDIAN LIONS step forward, one on each side of the EMPEROR.)

LION #1 (shouts): Make way for the Jade Emperor!

LION #2 (shouts to audience): Everybody bow!

EMPEROR: No, no. They don't need to bow. We're all friends here.

LION #2: Then...everybody throw money!

EMPEROR: Don't be silly. That's not a Chinese custom.

LION #2: I know.
(pointing to audience)
But THEY might not know that.

EMPEROR (to audience): I am the Jade Emperor. These are my Guardian Lions. They have come with me today to hear the news.

LION #2: There's news?

LION #1: About the race!

LION #2: There was a RACE?

LION #1: Didn't you get the memo?

LION #2: There was a MEMO? Wait. How could there be a memo? We haven't invented writing yet.

EMPEROR: You are right. This is very ancient China, long before the Shang Dynasty, when Chinese civilization began in the Huang-He Valley. So long ago that people ate with just one chopstick! I summoned all the animals to a race across the Yellow River. The winners will be announced today!

  Song 1 - Listen to a clip now!

EMPEROR and LIONS: Let me tell you what I've done
CHORUS: Oh please tell us what you've done
EMPEROR and LIONS: Let me tell you 'bout the fun
CHORUS: The Emperor is number one!
EMPEROR and LIONS: I set up a contest
EMPEROR and LIONS: A little river race
CHORUS: Oh boy!
EMPEROR and LIONS: I had all the Chinese animals competing
for first place.

EMPEROR and LIONS: Let me tell you 'bout the prize
CHORUS: Oh please tell us 'bout the prize
EMPEROR and LIONS: It'll open up your eyes.
CHORUS: Oh I just love a good surprise.
EMPEROR and LIONS: There's no silly trophy
EMPEROR and LIONS: We have no silly plaque
CHORUS: No plaque!
EMPEROR and LIONS: The first twelve to finish get to be the
Chinese zodiac.
CHORUS: The what?
EMPEROR and LIONS: The Chinese zodiac.

(VARIOUS members of CHORUS look
around -- they act puzzled and surprised,
and they can ask "What?" and "Did you
hear that?" etc.)

Everybody's buzzin'
Who'll be the winning dozen?
Twelve years in a cycle in the Chinese zodiac
Every year will feature
A different winning creature
The names will all derive
From the order they arrive.

EMPEROR and LIONS: Now let's see who came in first
CHORUS: Yeah let's see who came in first
EMPEROR and LIONS: And we'll see who was the worst.
CHORUS: Oh boy I'd hate to be the worst.
EMPEROR and LIONS: Did the dragon win it?
CHORUS: Ooooh.
EMPEROR and LIONS: And what about the yak?
CHORUS: Go yak!
EMPEROR AND LIONS: Let's find out the final order of the
Chinese zodiac.
CHORUS: That's right!
EMPEROR, LIONS and CHORUS: Let's find out the final order
of the Chinese zodiac.

(SONG ends; EMPEROR addresses the audience)

EMPEROR: The race has just finished, and it is time to learn the results.

LION #1: So who won?

EMPEROR: Patience, my noble companion. We must wait for the official announcement.

LION #2 (excited): You mean...?


LION #2 (very excited): Oh boy!


(EMPEROR and LIONS exit. Immediately the TORTOISE,

CRANE (to audience, speaking with the energy and enthusiasm of a host): That's right, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to The Great Race Awards Show, or as we like to call it, Wet Animals Tell All. I'm your host, the Crane, and these are my co-hosts, Tortoise and Grasshopper.

TORTOISE: Thanks, Crane. I'm known for my longevity -- I've spent years getting to know the contestants up close and personal. The Crane here is also known for his longevity, and he's the prince of feathered birds. He's also great at lifting heavy objects.
Get it? Crane? Heavy objects?
(taps microphone)
Is this thing on?

CRANE (moving on, now pointing to GRASSHOPPER): And Grasshopper is here because he's a symbol of good luck. And there's something else. What is it you do, Grasshopper?

GRASSHOPPER (speaks reflectively, holding one hand up in air. GRASSHOPPER's lines, when in quotations, are from Confucius and should be spoken as if containing the wisdom of the world.): "The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions."

CRANE: That's right! You utter folksy wisdom completely out of context. Now I remember. But this is The Great Race Awards Show, so let's get to the results.

TORTOISE: Excellent! And the winner is...

CRANE (interrupting): Wait! You can't just announce the winner. The first twelve to cross the river will become the animals in the Chinese Zodiac. And the winner gets to be the first symbol -- it's a HUGE honor!

TORTOISE: Sorry. I just get so excited. I guess we should start with number twelve.

GRASSHOPPER: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

CRANE (reflects): That's great, Grasshopper. Makes ya think.
(High level of energy again, steps in front of
GRASSHOPPER towards audience)
And while you're thinking, let's bring out the winners and some of their supporters. Here they are...in twelfth place, the Pig, and in eleventh place, the Dog!

(CHORUS applauds. PIGS and DOGS enter.)

TORTOISE: Whoa! You guys are really good swimmers. I thought you would do a little better.

PIG FRIEND (pointing to PIG): He got off to a good start.

PIG: Yeah -- I think I was ahead for the first three seconds. Then I smelled soy sauce.

DOG: I don't know what happened to me. I figured I'd win for sure.

DOG FRIEND: Maybe it was a lack of concentration...
(spins head quickly to look at side of stage and stops in mid-
word; now really excited)
...Hey, did someone throw a stick?

DOG (excited): Stick?!


BOTH DOGS (quickly, not together, looking all around excitedly): Stick! Stick stick! Stick!

TORTOISE: I think I see the problem.

  Song 2 - Listen to a clip now!

PIGS (stepping up and facing audience):
The race begins
I take one step
And that's when I run out of pep.
Postpone that zodiac
I really need a snack.

DOGS (having settled down):
The race begins
I jump right in
I'm thinking I will probably win.
But first I need to stretch
How 'bout a game of fetch?

If you asked us how we spent the day
Well we'd have to say...

We're chillin'
Yeah we're chillin'
Our minds say go but our four feet aren't willin'
We're chillin'
Something's grillin'
A small delay
But that's okay
We're chillin'.

My stomach full
With tea and rice
The river mud feels warm and nice.
Now all my strength is sapped
I really need a nap.
It's time to go
I must be quick
But I just can't resist that stick.
I ought to swim across
But maybe one more toss?

If you asked us how we spent the day
Well we'd have to say...

We're chillin'
Yeah we're chillin'
Our minds say go but our four feet aren't willin'
We're chillin'
Something's grillin'
A small delay
But that's okay
We're chillin'
Yeah we're chillin'
Yeah we're chillin'.

(THEY exit.)

CRANE: Well, there you have it -- the last two animals in the Chinese zodiac.

GRASSHOPPER: "Never give a sword to a man who can't dance."

CRANE: Hmmn. That sounds like solid advice, Grasshopper. It will certainly change my gift-giving habits.
(to audience)
Now let's keep the awards flowing. Who's up next, Tortoise?

TORTOISE: Tenth, ninth, and eighth place go to three animals who floated across the river together. And here they are, that terrific trio, that thrilling threesome, the triumphant triplets -- and my personal vote for animals least likely to end up on a raft together -- the Rooster, the Monkey, and the Goat!


CRANE: Congratulations!

MONKEY: For what?

CRANE: For making it into the Chinese zodiac.

MONKEY: We did? That's great! That's fantastic!
What's the Chinese zodiac?

GOAT (apparently appalled): What's the Chinese zodiac? You don't know what the Chinese zodiac is?

MONKEY: No. What is it?

GOAT: I have no idea. I thought we were just trying to cross the river to get to the other side.

MONKEY: That was the chicken.

ROOSTER: The Chinese zodiac is a system based on the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese lunar calendar. Each year in the cycle is related to an animal and its attributes. The Pig, for example, is honest, sturdy, and patient. And the Dog is loyal, fair, and compassionate.

MONKEY: So we all have to be up in the sky now? I get air-sick. Somebody should have told me.

ROOSTER: No. Unlike in some other cultures, the Chinese zodiac has nothing to do with the stars or constellations.

TORTOISE: You should all be proud of working together to get across the river. Why didn't you just go separately?

GOAT: That was easy...

MONKEY, ROOSTER, GOAT: We can't swim!

This concludes the first third of the script.

Overall Customer Rating:
review-star review-star review-star review-star review-star
Customer Reviews: 2

Durham, NC

review-star review-star review-star review-star review-star

  • humorous script
  • clever lines
  • catchy songs
  • easy to implement
  • instrumental tracks very helpful
Talents Blossom!

We had a wonderful experience using The Tale of the Chinese Zodiac with our fourth- and fifth-graders! This was our third Bad Wolf Press play, so we expected the humor and catchy songs. They are always well-received by the students, the administration, and the audience. What I loved in particular this time was watching the students take on new challenges and share their ideas of how to improve our performance. They learned so much about communicating with an audience - diction, emphasis, pacing, facial expressions, waiting for response - skills that will serve them on and off the stage. They coached each other on lines and song lyrics. They cheered on classmates who were brave enough to sing solos - and so many of them were brave enough! We also had a fun collaboration with our art teacher who helped the students make masks to represent their characters. The chorus was enthusiastic, singing every word, doing every motion, and reacting to the main scenes. It was simply a wonderful experience!

Additional Comments and Reviews:

"Our 2nd graders just did The Tale of the Chinese Zodiac. It's a wonderful play -- my new favorite! We collaborated with 6th grade, who did a wonderful historical presentation on China for the whole school. We did 4 performances and the superintendent of our district and several other district administrators and board members came too. Everyone loved it but most importantly the kids had a blast!

"This will be my 7th year of Bad Wolf plays. They're super easy to put on, the kids have a blast, and the parents and families of the students are so excited to see their children performing. It's the best part of the school year for me! Thanks for writing such great plays!"

---Nancy Hopkins, Teacher (2nd grade), Fremont Elementary, Riverside, CA

Common Core and Other National Standards

Language Arts

History/Social Studies

National Core Arts Standards


plaque longevity exceed folksy context pep
sapped concentration triumphant compassionate lunar constellation
tether slither agile rimshot harmony horde
benevolent flagging lagging salvation belch exhausted
perspective frustrated errand outrage brew draper
vow personality pterodactyl peers remote shrewd
pack (of animals)          


assume the duties get the memo it's lost on me to cast (fishing) out of context run out of pep
things turned ugly game of fetch talk some smack a piece of cake learn to let go lose your touch
everybody's buzzing keep things in perspective register a complaint
Number of questions: 0

Frequently Asked Questions About Bad Wolf Products and Licensing

How does your pricing and licensing work?

A: In short: each teacher/director using the play should have a copy of it. That's it! Your purchase gives you the right to use the play with as many classes as you wish, to photocopy the script for your actors, and to put on as many performances as you wish. This one-time purchase gives you a lifetime license. See below for more information on site licenses (for 3+ teachers or whole schools).

Q: What comes in the package?

A: Every musical play comes with the script and a 12-page Teacher's Guide that provides lots of tips and advice for using the play from start to finish. It also includes the audio recording for the play, which has all the songs both WITH and WITHOUT vocals. Sheet music is NOT included with the basic package, but it is available for $12. Extra/replacement CDs are also available for $12.

Every non-musical play comes with the script and the 12-page Teacher's Guide.

Q: I'm just one teacher putting on a play. If I use the play with multiple classes, do I have to purchase multiple licenses?

A: No! Your purchase gives you a lifetime license to be used with as many actors and classes as you wish. If other teachers/directors wish to use the play as well, they will need to purchase their own licenses.

Q: Do I need to purchase scripts for students?

A: No! Your purchase includes permission to photocopy the script for your actors.

Q: What is a "site license"? How do I know if I need one?

A site license is the economical choice when a whole school or grade level wants to put on the same play. Instead of each teacher/director having to purchase a script, the school/site can purchase a site license. This comes with three copies of the play (or one digital download) and permission to make copies for any additional participating teachers, as well as all the actors. You do NOT need to purchase both a site license and individual copies of the play; just buy one or the other.

Q: I understand that I can get two or more scripts for $35 each. Do they have to be the same play?

Nope! The discount applies whether you are purchasing multiple copies of the same show or single copies of multiple shows.

Q: What is the difference between the printed and digital versions? Which one should I get?

There is no difference in terms of content. The printed version of a musical play comes with an audio CD in a plastic sleeve in the back of the book. The digital version comes with two downloadable files: the script (PDF format) and the songs (individual MP3 files compressed in ZIP format). The advantage of the digital version is that you will not pay shipping and you can start using it instantly. Please read the question following this one about the technical requirements for digital files.

Non-musical plays are available in the form of a printed book or a PDF file.

Q: What are the technical requirements for the digital version?

  1. You will need to have Adobe Reader (free) or another software application that can open PDF files.
  2. You will need to be able to open ZIP files. The vast majority of computers should be able to do this without difficulty. If you wish to download the music directly to your phone or tablet, you will need to download an app that will open ZIP files. Many free ones are available.
  3. You will need to have some kind of audio player (such as iTunes or Windows Media Player) that will play MP3 files.

Advanced technical knowledge is not required; but please note that we do not have the ability to offer technical support for issues related to digital files. If you are unsure, it is probably best to stick with the printed version.

Q: What is your return/exchange policy?

A: Bad Wolf proudly offers a 100% guarantee. You can always exchange a product for another or get a full refund. No time limits, no questions.

Q: Is it OK if I edit the script?

A: Yes! Consider the play to be a jumping-off point. You are always welcome to change or omit anything that doesn't work for your class, administration, or parents. You are welcome to rewrite lyrics, lines, or jokes -- or add your own! (The kids love doing this, by the way.)

Q: How long does shipping take?

A: We say that you should allow for one week within the U.S., but most orders are shipped the same day and arrive 1-3 days later. International orders usually take around two weeks to arrive.

Q: Do I need to pay any performance royalties?

A: As long as your admission price is less than $5 per ticket, you never need to pay performance royalties with a Bad Wolf show. If you decide to charge more than $5 a ticket, or if you are using one of our plays for a PAID workshop, camp, assembly, etc., pay only a low 1-2% royalty on gross revenues. See our royalty page to view the rates and pay.