What is the Evil Spirit in Chinese New Year?

Friday, February 9, 2024

Chinese New Year, a time of joyous celebration and cherished traditions, is also steeped in folklore and legends. Amidst the vibrant festivities, there lurks a tale of an evil spirit that roams the earth during this auspicious time. Today we delve into the legend of the evil spirit in Chinese New Year, unraveling its origins and significance in the cultural tapestry of the holiday.

The Legend of Nian (年 - Nián)

According to ancient Chinese mythology, there once lived a terrifying 可怕 (kě pà) beast known as Nian. This ferocious creature would emerge from its hiding place every Chinese New Year's Eve to wreak havoc on villages, devouring livestock, crops, and even people. The mere mention of its name struck fear into the hearts of all.

可怕 (kě pà),adj, terrifying


  1. This movie has a terrifying monster.
    Zhège diànyǐng lǐ yǒu yīgè kěpà de guàiwù.
  2. The forest at night looks very terrifying.
    Yèwǎn de sēnlín kàn qǐlái hěn kěpà.

Protective Rituals and Symbols

To ward off Nian's malevolent presence, ancient Chinese devised various protective rituals and symbols. They hung red banners and scrolls adorned with auspicious phrases such as "福" (Fú - Blessing) and "平安" (Píng'ān - Peace), believing that the color red and positive symbols would repel the evil spirit.

The Tradition of Firecrackers and Lion Dances

Firecrackers and Lion Dances are integral parts of Chinese New Year celebrations, originating from the legend of Nian. It was believed that the loud noises of firecrackers and the fierce appearance of lion dancers scared away the beast, ensuring the safety 安全 (ān quán) and prosperity of the community.

安全 (ān quán), noun, safety


  1. We need to ensure the safety of the children.
    Wǒmen yào quèbǎo háizi de ānquán.
  2. Safety is the most important.
    Ānquán shì zuì zhòngyào de.

Modern Interpretations

While the legend of Nian has evolved over time, its symbolism remains ingrained in Chinese New Year traditions. Today, people continue to set off firecrackers, display red decorations, and perform lion dances to honor their ancestors and ward off any lingering negative energies.

  1. Dad, have you heard of the Year Beast?
    Bàba, nǐ tīng shuō guò Niánshòu ma?
  2. Yes, the Year Beast is said to be a very fierce monster.
    Shì de, Niánshòu jùshuō shì yīgè fēicháng xiōng'è de guàiwù.
  3. I'm not afraid of the Year Beast, because I heard that setting off firecrackers can scare it away.
    Wǒ bù pà Niánshòu, yīnwèi wǒ tīng shuō fàng biānpào kěyǐ bǎ tā xià pǎo.

Have you ever heard of the origin of Chinese New Year? Do you believe it?

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