What Is Nian Monster?-Year Beast

The Chinese New Year is among the most colorful events in Asian Countries. People wear red clothes during the Chinese New Year and create noises from fireworks or drums. They also hit plates and empty bowls to cause loud noises. The Chinese believe that such practices intimidate a monster they call Nian. Read on to learn more about this monster.

What is the nian monster?

Nian Monster
Nian Monster

Nian is a Chinese word that means year. According to Chinese mythology, a beast known as Nian lived in the mountains or under the sea. This creature is believed to date back to the early 20th century.  

Different accounts describe the appearance of the nian monster. Some people claim that it looks like a flat-faced lion with prominent incisors and a dog’s body. Others describe the nian monster as bigger than an elephant, with two long horns and many sharp teeth. The horn is designed to attack its prey. The Chinese also believe that the nian monster has a ferocious look in its eyes.

Why is nian scared of red?

Though nian is a scary monster that frightens people, it is scared of the color since it is pretty bright. Every time people knew that Nian would come to attack them during New Year’s Day, they would start pasting red paper decorations on their doors and spring rolls on their windows to frighten the beast away.

What is nian afraid of?

Besides the color red, the Chinese believe Nian is also scared of fire. Therefore, they lit firecrackers and burned lanterns all night to scare away the monster. Nian is also sensitive to loud noises. That is why the New Year celebrations are characterized by loud noises.

What is the story of the nian monster?

A long time ago in Ancient China, there was a fierce beast that people called Nian. On the last day of the lunar year, the nian monster came from the bottom of the sea and visited the land of the living. It came to eat livestock, grain, and people, especially children.

Since people were aware of the existence of the nian monster, they used to eat early during this specific day and lock their livestock gate. They then went into distant mountains to hide from the nian monster and avoid being attacked.

However, this changed one particular year when an old man visited the village. He had silver hair and a ruddy complexion. A granny came to the old man and offered him some food. She told him about the monster’s terror and tried to persuade him to go with her and the rest of the villagers to hide. However, the old man seemed unbothered by this and kept cool. He requested to spend the night at the granny’s house, claiming that he had the power to expel the monster.

Though the granny was not convinced, she honored his request and escaped to the mountain, leaving the old man behind. At around midnight, the monster Nian broke into the village. He suddenly sensed something different. In the past, whenever the monster appeared, the entire village was in darkness, but this time round, there was light in a house in the east.  

The monster approached the house carefully and discovered that the windows and doors were painted with red paper. The old man had also lit numerous candles inside the house. The beast glared at these strange things and approached the front door.  

When the door opened, the old man came out wearing a red gown. This frightened the monster, and it escaped. The next day, the villagers came back to an undamaged village. The old granny told the rest of the villagers that the old man was committed to frightening the beast. Everyone came to the house and found the windows and doors painted with red paper and candles lit in the house. There was also unburnt bamboo in the courtyard.  

They realized the old man was a celestial being who had come to their rescue. He told them of the secret weapons to frighten the Nian away. These items include firecrackers, bright lights, and red items.

What does the monster Nian have to do with the Chinese New Year?

The tale of the nian monster is inseparable from the Chinese New Year. This is because the monster is literally known as nian, which means year. New Year’s Day is referred to as Guo Nian, which means celebrating a new year to overcome Nian.

The Monster Nian is also associated with the Chinese New Year since people believe that this monster used to come to the village on the eve of New Year to destroy humans. Therefore, the Chinese celebrate the holiday to commemorate the defeat of the monster.  

On the eve of the Chinese New Year, people engage in the Nian dance every year. During the holiday, people still have red lanterns and loud firecrackers up to date since they believe these items scare away the monster Nian. They also engage in lion dance performances which involve wearing masks and costumes that represent the Nian.

Since people learned the secret to scaring the monster, the custom of keeping the lights on and staying up late to stay safe from Nian spread to different corners of China. This developed into an important festival of the Chinese which is today referred to as Lunar New Year’s eve.


If you have ever engaged in the Chinese New Year celebration, you have probably heard about the Nian Monster. This is a fierce beast that used to eat human flesh during New Year’s day. However, in one year, an old man managed to scare it away. He also taught the villagers the secret to keeping the beast at bay. Up today, The New Year celebration is characterized by loud noises, fire, and red paper decorations, which are believed to scare away the monster.

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