A story in Mandarin: Chinese New Year

Follow the legend of Chinese New Year and learn why people wear red, light firecrackers and bang drums on this special day.

Once upon a time, in China (listen 中国 Zhōng Guó), there was a fierce monster called Nian (listen Nián) with long, sharp teeth and giant claws.

At the end of the lunar year, Nian would go to the villages to hunt for food (listen 食物 shí wù).

Nian liked to eat (listen chī) anything he could lay his claws on, and with each visit Nian ruined people’s homes and crops.

The people feared Nian and would hide in the mountains (listen shān) at the end of the lunar year.

They would not return to the village until Nian left.

One day, an old man with grey (listen 灰色的 huī sè de) hair and a long, white (listen 白色的 bái sè de) beard came down from the mountains.

He told them Nian was afraid of three things:

  • loud noises
  • the colour red (listen 红色 hóng sè)
  • fire (listen huǒ)

On Nian's next visit, they banged drums, wore the colour red (listen 红色 hóng sè) and lit firecrackers (listen 烟花 yān huā) to scare Nian away.

The monster never came back.

People do this each year to celebrate Nian's defeat.

The last day of the lunar year is called Chinese New Year’s Eve (listen 除夕 Chú Xī).

The first day of the new lunar year is called Chinese New Year or Spring Festival (listen 春节 Chūn Jié).

Key Mandarin words

MandarinPinyinEnglish
listen 春节Chūn JiéChinese New Year or Spring Festival
listen 除夕Chú XīChinese New Year's Eve
listen 红色hóng sèred
listenhuǒfire
listenniányear
listenshānmountains
listen 烟花yān huāfirecrackers
listen 中国Zhōng GuóChina

Did you know?

In the legend of the Chinese New Year the monster is called Nian (listen Nián).

In Mandarin, listen nián also means 'year'.