The lion is regarded by Chinese communities outside China as a creature representing good omen. However, the legend of Nien began with the lion as a monstrous creature. According to legend, every Chinese New Year's eve, an unknown animal came to destroy the fields, crops and animals belonging to the farmers of the village. They could not identify the beast and named it Nien, which came to mean "year" in Chinese. To put a stop to the ravaging, the villagers made a fearful model of the animal out of bamboo and paper, with two men manipulating it, accompanied by the loud beating of instruments. They waited for the animal on new year's eve and succeeded in driving away Nien. Henceforth, the Nien dance was performed annually on Chinese New Year's eve with drums, cymbals and gongs. Over time, the image of the animal came to look more like a lion and the dance was later regarded as auspicious for all significant occasions.
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