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20) A story of Lunar New Year – Nian (年)


By courtesy of

By courtesy of

The mythology side of Lunar New Year was originated from a monster ‘nian’ (meaning ‘year’).  The beast had a head like a lion and a body like a bull.  It lives in deep sea for the whole season.

Every spring around the lunar month or Chinese New Year it will come ashore to destroy farms and attack humans.  Villagers were helpless.  They discussed how to make the ‘nian’ stay away from them and leave them in peace.  So they started hanging red cloths and lighted red lanterns, pasting red couplet outside the houses in the hope to deter this ferocious animal.  Whenever, the animal appeared, the villagers make loud noises with drums and gongs, chopping vegetables /meats loudly and ignite fireworks to subdue the beast.  Somehow, ‘nian’ was back off by these intimidations.  It left the village and never returned again.

Thus, the villagers realized that loud sound, the color of red, bright lights and fireworks etc were effective deterants to ‘nian’.

Since then, people have kept the tradition alive by beating drums and gongs on streets, and lighting fireworks to drive the beast away during the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival.  They wish each other ‘Gong Xi” for a new life of survivor, this is the mythology of how the Lunar New Year come about.

nian animal 01

nian animal 03

nian animal 02

The three scarlet friends humming along in their harmony home.

Author: Sydney Fong

Hi, I am Sydney, a Singaporean. Making a living as an Architectural Illustrator, 3d product designer and visionary. My blog entails categories of my interest, joy, upheaval of life and its destiny. Every post has its own characteristic. It conveys a story of its own, and the life of its owner.

52 thoughts on “20) A story of Lunar New Year – Nian (年)

  1. what a great and interesting tradition!

  2. Most interesting! Perhaps I should invest in a red lanturn! :)

  3. I love this new year celebration and now I know the mythology. Thank you.

  4. Wow, that’s really great!!! Amazing shots!!!

  5. Very interesting, although why on earth would a lion or a bull or a combination live under the sea :D

  6. I did not know those facts at all! And I grew up celebrating Lunar new year for 20 years!

  7. What a colourful and noisy festival that must be. :) Thanks for sharing, Sydney.

  8. Sounds like great good fun–and I love the backstory! I am going to wear red today for sure!!

  9. As I am scrolling down my reader of my favorite bloggers I see many interesting pictures. The pictures always appear before the name of the blogger. Somehow I always know that a picture belongs to Sydney before I see his name. :)
    All your pictures are so interesting and colorful.

    • In that case, thanks to my Canon EOS600 and friends of green and all those appreciations across the ocean.
      And finally, the woman staying to me – Meme! Thanks! Sydney hug, hug! :)

  10. Pingback: Happy Chinese New Year: Ten Blessings & Ten Things To Know… | Mirth and Motivation

  11. Thank you for sharing about the origin of the Lunar New Year. It will be better to know the reason of the festival than just celebrate it. Have a great day, my friend!

  12. Ohh, i miss those parts so much! I am forever in love with Chinese culture!

  13. now I know why my neighbours put up red decorations outide their houses..

  14. Hi Sydney How are you. Not sure how soon you get this message but I wanted to ask you something. I just noticed today that a couple people left me comments then when I replied the message I sent appeared in my notifications as if I sent it to myself. Has that ever happened to you ? I am not sure what is going on , this never happened to me before. Any insights would be greatly appreciated .

  15. It was really interesting to read and learn about the mythology behind the Lunar New Year. Great photos too!

  16. Very interesting. Thanks for posting –

  17. Thanks for sharing the background to a Lunar New Year. Very interesting story and pictures.

  18. Very interesting, I like the tradition. It sure does sound festive. The pictures of the lanterns are beautiful and so colorful. I wish you a “Gong Xi”. Blessings – Patty

  19. When we lived in Hawaii we went to Chinese New Year (1996, Year of the Rat I think) where we saw the lion dancers. They would go down the streets and people would feed them cabbages at the doorways of different businesses. The lion would “eat” the cabbage and sometimes spit it out after chewing it up! The noise of the firecrackers was deafening but it was so much fun to watch! Thanks for explaining about the history. I am assuming the lion dancers are tied to the story of the monster with a lion’s head? Do you know about the cabbages or what significance that has?

    • Cabbage in Chinese “菜头” literally means GOOD LUCK AHEAD. By feeding cabbage to the lion (nian),, the lion will spit it out a couplet with a good blessing in return.
      This is the story behind. In local from the first day of CNY to the 15th day, you will see lion dance celebration from one street end to another.
      Some they are asked to do it for the prosperity and pay them a red “Ang Bow” for the appreciation. in return.
      Some just doing on adhoc, door to door basic!
      See you, Julia! Have fun! :)

  20. Hi Sydney…
    I think i made a mistake on my comment before. In Indonesia, it’s also Feb 10th. I was wrong.
    Can’t wait for this CNY

  21. Pingback: Happy Chinese New Year « simple & gayforward

  22. So interesting…I never knew the myths behind Chinese New Year’s traditions, thanks for sharing that! So glad you enjoyed our post. If you’re a facebook user we’d love for you to “like” our page. See you there!

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