A Chinese New Year’s Origin Poem

For years, the monster NIAN had been terrorizing the poor villagers. But with the appearance of a mysterious stranger, the tidings seem to change.


„Villagers, come! Pack your stuff!

Forget the weapons, the beast is too tough.

The only way for you to survive

Is to take your kids and your wife.

And make haste before the night,

When the monster Nian, in all its might,

storms unleashed into our community

To devour those who did not flee.

So follow me to the mountainside,

We’ll go to the caves where we can hide.”


Old Lady:

“Brave watchman you, you gave us hope, not fear,

As long as we are there and do not dwell here.

Oh, look! I am sure old but sure not blind,

There is a stranger no one else seems to mind.

Maybe he does not know what is awaiting.

Better to tell him before his life is fading.

Hello stranger! You! I can clearly see

You are not from here, otherwise, you would flee.

Our peaceful township is about to be destroyed,

By the monster Nian coming at night out of sea’s void.

Every year when the lunar cycle is complete

This monster appears with the desire to eat.

This is no legend, since the beginning of time, it is true.

Better go to the refuge and hide with us too.”



“My fair old lady, your words are wise.

I am a beggar, as you can see with your eyes.

Homeless I am and looking for a place

Where during the night I can slow down my pace.

When you are so kind to offer your bed and fire,

I will get rid of your monster seeming so dire.”


Old Lady:

“Did you not listen, or are you mad?

I won’t be your host and nurse you at my bed.

I will seek shelter with my family and peers.

Try to survive on your own, when the monster appears.”


In the night, at the house of the old lady.



“There are you monster, I waited so long.

Your terror will end and no further prolong.

I suspected the gluttonous desire you feel

And that the light in the house would appeal.

Right in my trap, your hunger had led.

Do you see all the walls and doors decorated in red?

This is the fire set to burn you black-skinned.

Enough of your threat, you had deadly sinned!

Blind you are now in the fire’s hot light,

For your eyes are not used to flames so bright.

You dwell in the ocean, not able to see or to hear

Is it the loud cracking you also tremblingly fear?

Of all the dread you brought to this town

None of it shall ever be felt here around.

For you flee of red, flames and cracking here,

I will make sure the fire is lit every year!”


The next morning in the village.


Old Lady:

“Look! A wonder! The village is still there!

All tears shed in the mountains due to the despair.

Not a single house in the town is laying in ruin.

Is this the result of the strange man’s doing?

Let us haste to my home at the eastern side.

Maybe the secret of his victory he can provide.

Oh, look, my home! It is decorated all red!

Stripes on the door, walls and over the bed.

And a fire had been made in the night.

He certainly used it in the ferocious fight.

I can clearly see bamboo laying in the ashes.

This makes a sound of cracking and crashes!

The stranger, however, is not to be seen.

He should know how grateful we had been.

To help the whole county we shall, in his name,

Tell all our neighbours to use methods the same.

Villagers be merry, then from now on,

Nian, the monster, will be forever gone.”

Happy Chinese New Year to everyone!

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