Legend of “Nian” (Year)

Source: ‘年’的传说(Legend of ‘Nian’)

As a tradition, Chinese stay up late or all night on New Year’s Eve. The common name of this activity is called “Shou Ye”, meaning “survive the Nian”. So why do they try to “survive the Nian”?

For generations, there is an interesting legend. In the ancient time, there is a terrible monster, scattered in the mountain forests. People call it “Nian”. Nian has a ferocious appearance, It eats birds, beasts, insects and everything, including human. Each day, it changes to a different taste. People pale whenever they think about Nian. Later, people gradually mastered the “Nian” campaign laws. It turns out that it comes to an area where people live every 365 days and it always happens at night and they always return to forest before sunrise. So, people call this particular night the “Nian Guan” (year barrier) and come up with a complete set of New Year approach:

On this night, people will prepare their diner earlier, turn off stove, and lock the door. All family members will stay inside and have their “year dinner”. In addition to rich food, families get together with harmony and reunion. it must be before a meal for the ancestors first, pray to the gods to bless their ancestors. Having safely passed the mid-night, they start eating dinner. After diner, no one dares to sleep. They sit together and chat to embolden themselves. Gradually it formed the habit of years, “Shou Ye”.

At dusk, Nian comes out from forest and arrives in village. But every family has closed their door. In from of their doors are firing woods, but no people can be found on street. Nian walked around and didnót find a person to eat. Before the sunrise, they had to return back to mountains.

People are delighted after getting through the “Year”. They thank to ancestors for their protection and to congratulate each other for not being eaten. So, people are survived the “Nian” this way for many years. Gradually, people are off guard to Nian. Finally on a new year eve, Nian beast suddenly arrived at a village in Jiangsu (near Shanghai) and ate almost all the people except one newly married couple and a few children. Why? The couple wears red cloths and had red curtains hanging. The children were playing around a pile of burning bamboos with pop sounds. Apparently, Nian was scared away. From now on, people learned that Nian animals are afraid of red color, are sensitive to light and fear of noise. So, people will post red paper on wall, wear red cloths, hang red lanterns, beat drums, play fireworks on the new year eve to scare Nian away. As a result, Nian animals never come anymore. But the tradition of observing the conquest of Nian and putting up red paper and lighting firecrackers to scare away Nian is carried on from generation to generation.


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One Response to “Legend of “Nian” (Year)”

  1. Fluffy paw paws Says:

    You need to correct grammar. Your site has many typos. Remember to double check your work when you finish it.

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