The legend of Nian
The Cultural Events team at the Science Museum, asked me to tell the story of Chinese New Year and the legend of the monster Nian. This was part of their Chinese New Year event called ‘China Lates’. An evening event filled with dance, presentations and storytelling to celebrate Chinese New Year.
According to the Chinese legend, there once lived a ferocious monster with a sharp horn on the top of his head. He had bulging, blood shot eyes, a long, snake-like body and the sharpest teeth. He lived at the bottom of a huge lake and would rise on the last night of each year to terrorise and devour the local people including their cattle. It took the courage of one elderly man to scare the beast away with loud bangs, the colour red and bright, illuminous lights. The legend lives on today as traditionally the Chinese New Year is celebrated with fire-crackers, red lanterns and the Lion Dance to scare away evil spirits.
The Year of the Pig
There are 12 animals associated with the Chinese Zodiac. Each animal is assigned characteristics and meanings. 2019 is the year of the pig who represents wealth and prosperity! We had several people born in previous years of the pig in the audience at the Science Museum and someone asked ‘why the pig?’ The story goes that the Jade Emperor held a big party and invited all the animals. He asisgned each animal to a year according to the order they turned up to the party. The pig over-slept and turned up last and so the Emperor assigned him the last/12th animal in the Chinese Zodiac.
Each performance of my story at the Science Museum was filled with the loud bang of my drum and shouts from the audience as I asked them to yell ‘BE GONE’ to scare away the monster Nian. I think it worked! Several people shared with me afterwards, how much they enjoyed hearing the story and how they either did not know why it was celebrated this way today or had forgotten the meaning behind some of the references. It was wonderful to take people on an emotional journey through the story as we embraced the highs and lows at each turn. Happy New Year everyone! 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)