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Story of Nian

The legendary creature that ruined Chinese New Year.


Published: 23 Jan 2020

Time taken : ~10mins

What has the legendary beast got to do with lanterns, red decorations and firecrackers? Read about the fearsome creature and how it ruined Chinese New Year for years.

For centuries, Chinese New Year's eve was spent in fear...


“Put out the lamps!”

“Hurry! We have to leave before it catches us!”

“Shush…hide and be quiet, child!”

Everyone knew about the beast that would come down from the mountain on the eve of Chinese New Year.

Hungry from its year-long slumber, Nian, a ferocious beast that strikes terror in the heart of every living being, would wake up to wreak havoc. It would descend upon villages and have its fill.

Legend has it that as soon as the sun begins to set, the beast will begin its hunt.

Some villagers would leave their homes to escape the monster. Those that were left in their villages would lock their doors, put out their lamps and remain as quiet as possible. Even the smallest hint of light or the softest of noises would attract the attention of the creature.

One Chinese New Year's eve...


...in a remote village in China, a beggar came into town. He went from door to door asking for food and a place to stay for the night, but everyone was far too worried for their own skin to help him.

From afar, an elderly woman peeked from her window and saw the man. He was coming closer and closer to her house.

Knock! Knock!

“Madam, all I need is some food and a place to stay for the night. Will you please help me?” the man pleaded.

“I can’t help you. It is almost dusk and the monster is close by," the old woman replied.

Even though she felt sorry for him, she was still reluctant to help. She was afraid for her life. However, the man begged and pleaded with her again. Moved by his pleas, she finally gave in.

“Alright…you can come in and stay for the night, but you have to promise to be very quiet or the beastly Nian will come for us,” she warned.

The old man was extremely grateful to the woman for helping him. 

"Thank you for your kindness! In return, I will teach you how to get rid of the beast," he shared.

Night fell...


A deep ferocious growl rippled through the village. It was Nian, the beast that every living being feared. The whole village was dark, except for a house in the distance.

Attracted to the glowing light, the creature bolted towards the house. It was the old woman’s house. The beast stood before her house, ready to barge through the door.

However, the red lanterns and papers stuck on the outside of the house caught its eyes. Shocked, it took a step back. The colour made the beast whimper. 

Suddenly, the beggar burst through the door banging loudly on a drum. Covering its ears with its paws, the creature cowered in fear. At that moment, firecrackers exploded all around.

Whooosh!!! Bang!!! Boom!!!

Wailing and crying, the monster dashed off as fast as its legs could carry it and as far away as possible.

The next morning...


The sun rose over the hills and the villagers emerged from their homes, shocked that their village was safe.

The old woman shared, “The beggar whom you turned away last night taught me how to get rid of the monster. A Nian is afraid of the colour red, bright flashes and loud noises!”

Soon, news of how to keep the monster away spread far and wide.

And that is the story of how the eve of Chinese New Year was no longer spent in silence. People began celebrating the lunar new year with red lanterns and decorations, firecrackers and the loud joyous sounds of the beating drums—all because of the ferocious Nian that used to ruin Chinese New Year.