Thursday, September 11, 2008


In Chinese mythology, a Nian is a beast that lives under the sea or in the mountains. Once each spring, on or around Chinese New Year, it comes out of hiding to attack people, especially children. The Nian is sensitive to loud noises and afraid of the color red.


The Chinese New Year traditions of decorating in red, exploding firecrackers, and performing a lion dance were originally used to scare the beast away. Some people display on red banners to prevent the Nian from returning. Numerous other traditions such as wearing red clothing or handing out red envelopes are also designed to protect against the Nian.

The Chinese word for ''year'' is the same as the name of this beast. A phrase for celebrating Chinese New Year, ''guo nian'' means ''the passing of the beast''.

In the Lion Dance

A lion dance is a traditional dance usually performed by martial artists or acrobats. One or more performers hold up a large costume beast with a distinctive head, and one or more human characters will dance around the beast. Although these dances are commonly called lion dances, the beast portrayed is often not a lion. In northern China, it may be a Rui Shi or Fu Dog. In the south of China, it may be a nian. The Cantonese lion dance is sometimes a reenactment of the legend of taming the Nian.

Image gallery

Nian in Popular Culture

The Nian were a part of the Canthan New Year Celebration as part of the game Guild Wars, specifically appearing in Guild Wars Factions

Omen, a boss in World of Warcraft which appears only once a year during the Lunar Festival was inspired by the Nian.

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