Lunar new year (Chinese New Year / Spring Festival) passed by just a few weeks ago. The lion dance you see during the lunar new year celebrations depicts a legend involving a monster known as the nian.
The nian is a ferocious monster that lived in the sea. Once a year, the nian would come out of the sea to devour people and livestock. It is described as having a long head with a single horn on top of it. Alternately it’s described as having the body of a bull, the head of a lion, and the horn of a unicorn. The latter description is what is used in the costumes in the traditional lion dance.
The lion dance reenacts the legend of the nian, and the villagers attempt to scare it off with firecrackers, making noises, buring their lamps all night and hanging red banners. The startled nian runs off to the sea, never to be seen again.
Every new year firecrackers are lit, drums are beaten, red is worn and lamps are hung. These are all part of the traditional new years celebrations in various parts of Asia. The new years celebrations were formerly known as Guo Nian (the passing of Nian).
- Legend of ‘Nian’ – The spring festival legend and customs
- History of Chinese New Year – Origins of customs and practices
- Lion Dance Competition (2013) – Youtube video from Malyasia
Related creatures: Kirin
Region of origin: Asia, China
This monster is a lot cuddlier than last time right? If it can be scared off by firecrackers, it doesn’t seem all that ferocious to me.