In Chinese mythology
(年獸) is a beast that comes in spring. The Chinese word for year
is based on the arrival of the beast. A phrase for Chinese New Year
, guo nian
(過年) means the passing of the beast
. It is believed that it lives under the sea. It came to attack people at the same time of the year. The Chinese tradition of decorating in red, burning fire-crackers, lion-dance with loud drums and gongs was to scare the beast away.
During Chinese New Year, there are two kind of lion dances. The northern lion Rui Shi (瑞獅) has long hair and round head. They are called lions, but they definitely are not the same as the African lions. The southern lions, meanly Cantonese, have a horn at the top of their heads. The Cantonese lions fit the description of a Nian, but they are not the same as the northern lions. Some legends said the Cantonese lion dance is an reenactment on how Hotei tamed the Nian.
-  A Chinese page about the tradition of the lion dance