Do you ... know the legend of the Nian monster?

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017

According to legend, in ancient China there lived a monster called the Nian, which means “year”, that would attack villages every lunar New Year, eating livestock, crops and even people, especially children.

> So, every New Year’s Eve, villagers would have to flee to the mountains to avoid the Nian.

> One New Year’s Eve, an old beggar arrived at one of the villages but everyone, except an old woman, was too busy to pay him any attention. The woman gave him some food and advised him to leave with them.

The old beggar told her he would help drive the monster away if she would put him up for a night at her house. She tried to convince him to flee with them but he refused so she accepted his offer.

> That night, the Nian rushed into the village but was startled when he saw red paper framing the door of the old woman’s house, which was brightly lit. It was shocked stiff by the loud blasts it heard when it approached the house. When the old man suddenly burst out of the front door wearing bright red robes, the Nian, terrified, fled the village.

> It turned out that the colour red, firelight and loud sounds were things the Nian feared most. By the time the villagers returned, the old man was gone so they believed him to be a celestial being who came to help them. Since then, on every lunar New Year, every household would paste red couplets on the front of their houses, let off firecrackers, kept their houses brightly lit and stayed up all night to prevent the return of Nian.

> Some stories say the lion dance originated from this legend.

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Family & Community , Chine New Year


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